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5:29am

Chapter Text

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 .



Chapter Text

A knock at the door at 5:29am was never good news, and that was a fundamental truth. 

Owen had a gun. He always did. This one was under his pillow.

He made his way to the door, slowly. But not too slowly, because then they might knock again, and if Curt woke up, he would get weird ideas.

The handle felt scorching cold under his fingers.

He opened the door.

No one was there.

Logically, it should have been more reassuring than the millions of horrible possibilities that were floating through his mind. Except for the fact that the absence of anyone in front of him did not exclude too many of those possibilities.

He shut the door, maybe a bit too loud, and someone shuffled in the next room.

Curt was awake. And very confused, as it turned out: “What’s with that look, doll?”

He took a deep breath. “Someone knocked, Curt.” he murmured.

“Who?”

“I don’t know.”

“At this hour?”

“Yes. And when I opened the door, no one was there.”

Curt frowned: “That’s… not good.”

“No.”

They were still sitting there when the sun rose.

 

Curt’s house was nearly empty of food, but completely full of various takeout boxes, and it pissed Owen off to no end.

What have you been eating?” he hissed, shoving a pile of boxes into a garbage bag. Curt seemed to take offense to it: “I have a deal with the local takeouts. Grocery stores don’t deliver here.”

“Well, someone has to get your groceries.” he scoffed, already slipping into his jacket. Okay, so maybe he was just cranky due to low blood sugar, because Curt was a heathen and didn’t have so much as a pack of biscuits for him. But maybe he was a little annoyed at how little effort Curt was putting into eating right while Owen wasn’t there. He had to wonder if it was the same when he didn’t have a busted knee.

He was already making for the door when Curt grabbed his arm.

“Wait! Wait, are you just gonna leave me here?”

Owen was going to answer sarcastically. Force of habit. But then he remembered that knock at 5:29am and paused. He knelt in front of Curt. “I won’t be long, love.” he whispered, “I promise. Keep a gun at hand and your back to the wall. Twenty minutes. Just enough to get stuff for a couple days.”

“We could just get takeout, you know.” Curt grinned, but there was desperation in his eyes. A hint of I have a bad feeling about this . And, for once, Owen was inclined to listen. 

“Fine. For today.” he conceded, and he didn’t miss the way Curt’s smile lost all traces of nervousness in a second. 

 

“You know…” Owen mumbled through a mouthful of pizza at dinner: “I’m not entirely sure what your plan was here. Now there’s at least a dozen people who know your location.”

“Yeah, but they don’t know who I am.”

“You can’t be sure of that, Curt. You’re not exactly a nobody.”

“I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.” Curt plucked a stray mushroom off his slice before shoving it in his mouth.

“That’s…” Owen sighed, “That’s not the expression, dear.”

“Whatever.”

They finished pretty quickly. Owen had to admit that he didn’t mind not having to wash any dishes; he was still feeling that horrible jet lag in the back of his mind. Oh, and his completely sleepless night. Case in point, he was out cold the moment he sank into the couch.

In his dreams, he thought he could feel someone stroking his cheek.

 

He woke up at 5:29am to the sound of a knock on the door.

His heart leapt in his throat. Once, he could ignore. Twice meant trouble. He didn’t move to the door slowly this time. He ran to it, shoving it open as fast as he could, and still only caught a flash of black around the corner of the house. Brandishing his gun, he gave chase.

He turned the corner. No one. Nothing. 

No one in the field behind the house. A large, barren field. If someone had been there, he would have seen them. No one around the corner. No one in the house except for Curt.

Curt, who was awake and had fallen just outside the door.

“Owen, what the fuck?” he panted, and he wasn’t angry. So he wasn’t referring to Owen running off, he was referring to the knock. 

“I don’t know.” he admitted, “God, Curt, I don’t know. We can’t stay here. They’re toying with us. They could strike any moment. Oh, God…” 

He sank into the sofa next to Curt. 

“Curt.”

“Yes?”

“We need to get out of here. Now. Where’s your closest safehouse?”

Curt looked lost for a moment. “I...“ he paused, “At least twelve hours away. Owen, please tell me you have a car.”

“I don’t.” he shook his head. His breath caught in his throat, “I don’t. I’ll get one. I don’t care if I have to give them a fake name, we have to get out of here. I have to get you out of here…”

His hand shot out to grab Curt’s before he knew it. Curt squeezed it tightly: “Calm down. Owen, it’s dark.”

He was right. It would be risky to leave during the night. They ran the risk of running into a trap. Waiting for daylight would be better, but they were compromised. They couldn’t stay there a minute longer. 

"Gun in hand and back to the wall, Curt." he commanded, "I'll make a round. Just to be safe. It won't be long before dawn."

"Don't get caught."

"I won't."

 

He found no one.

And, as soon as the sun rose, he helped Curt into his crutches and they booked it to the nearest car rental. In, out and as far away as they could get in the blink of an eye. Curt made sure to inform the A.S.S. of the change of safehouse, but for some reason left out the part where they'd been terrified into leaving the first.

The new safehouse was in Springwood, Ohio, population: no one. Although they were close enough to a decently big town that they could get groceries with a twenty minute walk. Which they would have to, eventually, and Owen was not particularly happy with that. He made sure to bag some emergency food on the way there.

Curt looked somewhat smug at the way Owen was spoiling him. It was just doing the housework, really, but he would take anything.

Owen waited, that night, and the next, and the next. Every morning, at 5:29am, he sat near the door with his gun at the ready and his shoes on.

Every time the same.

Knock knock .

Chapter Text

Springwood, Ohio had a charm to it. In that so few people that you can actually keep your story straight way. Their story, in this case, was that Curt was a writer just looking for a little peace and quiet and Owen was his cousin, there to assist him with his broken knee. Sweet home Alabama , Curt had said. For some reason. That Owen refused to investigate because Curt’s face screamed ask me about it and that was never a good sign.

Not that they needed to tell too many people. Ideally, they would come and go and not be noticed, but ideally was hardly a word in a spy’s vocabulary.

He couldn't leave. He still couldn't leave.

Something about their situation made him want to cry. He'd tried to catch the mysterious knocker at least six times since they'd come to Springwood, but the guy just seemed to vanish.

It was almost 10pm when he sat next to Curt on the couch. It was exactly 10pm when he felt it. A sudden rush of affection, of concern, of love ; he grabbed Curt's hand and squeezed it tight, and Curt squeezed it right back.

There was something very special, for him, in kneeling next to his love when he sat down. It felt posh, gentlemanly, but also soft and caring and intimate. He held Curt's hand and planted a kiss on his knuckles, which made him laugh; then nearly burst into tears, which didn't.

"God, Curt." he blurted out, "I'm scared." 

He didn't know where that had come from, but it wasn't a lie. Maybe he was just tired of pretending he had a handle on the situation when he felt so damn helpless.

Curt bent down to put his arms around his shoulders: "Don't be. We'll be alright. We're spies, remember? We can fight."

"Yes, I can fight." Owen snapped, "Don't you see? They're just waiting for me to leave you alone, and then- God, I don't know. I don't want to know."

Curt said nothing.

"I need to catch them. Before they decide they're done toying with us." he resolved, squeezing Curt's hand once again: "I can't…"

He never finished that sentence. Not out loud.

I can't fail you again.

I can't lose you.

I can't see you get hurt.

Bits and pieces of phrases floated in his mind, never to be given voice to. He settled for just pulling Curt into a tight embrace, façades be damned. He held him tight and he felt complete, just for a second. He liked him just a bit too much. He knew that, and there he was, curling himself around Curt in the vain hope that his arms would be an indestructible fortress, never to let any harm come to him. But they weren't, he knew that much. Hope is a wish, and wishes are dreams, and dreams are pretend.

And he didn’t have time for pretend.

He sat outside the door at 5am. The minutes ticked by, slower than ever, as his continuous staring at his watch could attest.

5:12am.

The wind wasn’t as chilly in Springwood.

5:14am.

He started to wonder if he should have let Curt stay outside with him. Then changed his mind and decided it was safer to be alone, for both of them.

5:15am.

He hated them. Whoever they were. He wanted them gone from their lives forever.

5:20am.

It was so torturously slow.

Tick, tick, tick. Nine minutes seemed like an eternity. He hid under the porch. Maybe the mysterious nighttime visitor wouldn’t approach at all if he saw him standing there, and he didn’t want that. He wanted to see them. And, more importantly, get rid of them .

5:23am.

No sign of anyone, but there was still time. 

5:26am.

Close. Very close. Three minutes. Please show up .

5:27am.

Please show up .

5:28am.

Die. Die and leave us alone.

5:29am.

No one was there. No one was there. No one walked up to the door, and Owen wanted to throw something. They’d never been late. They’d never failed to knock. Where were they?

And what the fuck did they want?

Owen knew it was never good when they took their time. It meant they were confident. And sadistic. It meant they were having their fun with it, and fun in spy world was bad news.

 

5:29am.

 

Knock knock .

Someone knocked at the back window.

A gunshot. 

His mind went blank. Empty of all but one word, one name.

Curt !!” he screamed, and almost tripped running back into the house, running, his feet hurt, why did they hurt? It didn’t matter, run , faster you moron , some part of him chastised, and he did. He ran into Curt’s bedroom.

The window was shattered. There was a bullet hole in it. He felt faint.

Curt was breathing heavily, hanging off the side of the bed with the gun clutched in his hand. He was… fine. 

Startled, but fine. There was no blood. The broken glass was on the outside.

He was fine.

Owen stared out the window long enough for Curt to pull himself together. 

“Did I get him?” he asked, uncertainly. Owen stared at the pebbles on the ground outside and found them clean.

“No.” he grimaced, “There’s no blood.”

“Dammit.” Curt laid back in bed with a heavy sigh.

Owen felt a cold chill run up his spine. They were still out there.

“Did… did they attack you?” he asked, almost shyly, and he felt his heart soar when Curt shook his head no .

“No.” he reiterated, “They just knocked and I shot them. Or tried to.” he muttered, staring at the gun in his hand with what looked like disappointment. Or maybe the slightest hint of fear. He turned to Owen: “How did they find us so quickly? They must have followed us.”

“Yeah.”

“So we have to move more sneakily this time.”

“How?” Owen grumbled, “Even if we can’t see them, we don’t know if they’re after us. We don’t know if they’re tailing us. We can’t solve the problem by avoiding it in this case, we have to capture them.”

Curt seemed reluctant. Which was very unusual. Normally, he would have been the one to make the daring plan and rush head first into a fight. Something wasn’t right.

“Curt?”

“Hm?” 

“Is everything alright, love?”

“Well…” Curt huffed, “Aside from the heart attack I got when someone randomly knocked on my window, yes.”

That was fair. But also a lie. There was something else. A twinge of fear in his eyes. Maybe, Owen realized, he was just as nervous as him at the prospect of being caught off-guard when he couldn’t walk. If they just got him on the ground, kicked his knee, anything of the sorts, he would be vulnerable. They could have killed him (and Owen knew Curt didn’t want to die), or worse (as they’d done before). Curt wasn’t sleeping much. And that was when Owen realized it.

“They’re trying to tire us out.”

“What?”

“We’re not sleeping.” Owen explained, “We’re constantly on edge. We’ll run out of food soon and we’ll have to leave the house. They’re not just toying with us, they’re trying to tire us out.”

“What if we call the agency? Request an extraction?” 

He bit his lip. Maybe Curt had a point, but leaving the house at all seemed unwise to him. Besides, where would they go? It would still be a safehouse. They could still find them. And Owen did not entirely trust their agencies with their lives, in all honesty. As far as MI6 was concerned, they were on leave, so they were on their own.

“Listen, Curt. Let’s compromise. One more night here. We’ll try to capture them again and if that doesn’t work, we move.” he proposed, “Okay?”

Curt thought it over for a moment. 

“Okay.”

 

Chapter Text

They decided to take a nap. In turns, of course, just in case the knocker decided to stop fucking around while they were both asleep. No matter how much smaller the odds were of being attacked in broad daylight, they were not gone. And Curt's safehouse was so isolated that they probably could have held them there for days without anyone from the town noticing. And a lot of things can happen in a few days in jobs such as theirs.

Curt was currently sleeping in the now only bedroom that didn’t have a shattered window, and Owen was standing guard in the chair in the corner because of course he was. He felt… strangely safe. Maybe it was the closed blinds, maybe it was Curt’s slow breathing. Maybe it was the subtle intimacy of a silent bedroom. Maybe it was the gun in his hand. Who could say?

He leaned back in his chair. It was quiet in there. 

Peaceful.

Don’t fall asleep .

“Christ…” he murmured, rubbing his eyes. The whole point of this was that he wasn’t supposed to fall asleep, but looking at Curt’s sleeping face and hearing his quiet snoring was like the slowest tranquilizer he’d ever been exposed to. It was like a lullaby, inviting and gentle and very dangerous for an agent on guard duty.

Curt looked downright angelic when he was asleep. The first time he’d seen him asleep, Owen had written it off as him being cuter when he wasn’t talking, which wasn’t entirely inaccurate. However. His sleeping face was more than that. It was the face of a man who could only find peace in his sleep; only in deep, dreamless sleep. He looked most beautiful when there was no trace of pain, worry, or any sort of agitation on his face. So, almost never. Owen took his time to admire the rare sight before him, on account of having literally nothing else to do. 

And maybe enjoying it, just a little bit.

Lovely .

 

When it was his turn to sleep, he was almost disappointed. Yes, he was exhausted, but he wasn’t fond of the idea of leaving Curt alone when he had the self control of a squirrel on crack. Curt denied it, of course. But they both knew. 

His nap started out as rather uneventful. Dark clouds stirred sluggishly in his sleeping conscience, silent and unthreatening, and warm like a blanket pulled around his tired shoulders. 

Then something changed.

A gunshot .

The clouds shattered into a sharp rain of glass. Raining down, down, down. Duck !! 

Owen dropped to the ground, shielding his head and neck from the shards and letting his thick jacket do the rest. He was fine. He was fine

The sky was red.

With pretty purple swirls, violent purple, like bruises, like a shattered limb. 

Red and purple, the colours of pain.

He felt somewhat upset, all of a sudden. No, not upset. Devastated. Like something terrible had happened, something so horrifying that he’d blocked it out completely. He felt the most crushing grief he’d felt in years, falling on his shoulders like a rain of rocks, pressing down, squeezing his lungs. 

It hurt .

The pressure was agonizing. 

He wanted to sob. 

Scream. 

Run. 

Move. 

Do something

But he couldn’t.

And then, all of a sudden, the pressure was lifted off his back, and he screamed , the most guttural scream in his life. Loud and desperate, so loud that it wasn’t his voice, not only his voice at least, but thousands of voices overlapping, loud, loud, loud .

He recognized some of them. His parents. His sister. His old friends from high school. His boss. Cynthia. And Curt.

They were all so different, ranging from calm to angry to desperate, and Curt’s voice began to ring louder than the rest.

Owen !”

It was so loud. Was he still screaming?

Owen, stop !”

His hands were shooting out before he knew, to grab something, anything , to squeeze it tight until it broke, and now there was rage where despair had been.

Owen ! No !”

 

He opened his eyes and the sky was grey. No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t the sky. It was the ceiling of a dark room, and his hands were clenched tight around his own leg. No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t his leg. It was someone else’s arm.

It was Curt’s arm.

Owen pulled his arm back like it had been burned, and it felt like it. His hand burned with the strength of his own bruising grip. 

Curt was perched on the side of the bed, placing all his weight on his good leg and the corresponding arm. Owen realized he’d been dragging him towards him, making his stance increasingly precarious. 

“Jesus, Owen…” his partner sighed, flopping down on the bed, "Are you okay? I’ve never heard you scream like that, and I saw you lose a fingernail.”

They both shivered for just a moment. Owen slicked his hair back with a heavy, erratic breath: “It’s fine. I’m fine. Sorry I scared you, old boy.” 

“That didn’t sound fine.”

“I didn’t mean to scream out loud.”

“Well, you kinda did.” Curt tilted his head, “Out with it, doll. What’s up?”

“No.”

“Owen-”

“Even if I wanted to tell you, and I don’t…” he clarified, “Nothing happened. Not really. It was so… surreal. I couldn’t tell you what upset me, because I don’t know.”

Curt didn’t seem to believe him, but that was his own fault. He was telling the truth; whether Curt believed him or not was not his business.

“Okay.” he agreed, finally. 

 

To say they were well-rested when night fell would be a lie. Still, their aim was fine and their reflexes fast, so they would probably be alright. Probably.

Curt was sitting in the bedroom again, hiding so that it would be absolutely impossible to see him there.

Owen was once again hidden outside the front door. 

It was 5am and there was no way their stalker could arrive from either side of the house unseen. Owen felt admittedly nervous being separated from Curt for half an hour when they were the explicit target. Alone outside an empty house, he almost regretted not calling either of their agencies. Briefly.

The breeze was kind of chilly that morning. 

Owen decided at that exact moment that he hated Springwood, Ohio. 

It was almost 5:15am and an inexplicable bout of anxiety washed over him without warning. Why? It wasn’t the first time they’d found themselves hiding and waiting. It wasn’t the first time they’d been separated. Why was this different? 

It was 5:23am and he was getting nervous. He really wished he hadn’t gone into hiding so soon. He checked the safety for the fifth time. It was off. Good. He didn't want to lose a single second when the bastard came knocking.

5:25am. He felt terribly anxious to be done with it. He wanted it to be over, over and done with, he wanted them to go back to the illusion of safety they’d known before this fucker came.

5:28am. He wanted to shoot something on principle.

5:29am. 

Knock knock .

The knock wasn’t coming from the door. Or the window. 

Crash !

Owen nearly fell out of his hiding place, scrambling to the door once again. The window in the living room was broken from the inside, completely shattered, and the morning breeze hit his face worse than a cannonball. He froze and moved at just the right moment to avoid the bullet that barely grazed past his shoulder and embedded itself in the wall.

Owen !” 

" I'm fine !" he shouted back, sprinting towards the window. Something stopped him, though. Namely, Curt grabbing onto his arm.

He couldn't hide his irritation: "What??" he hissed, but all the venom fled his tone when Curt collapsed into his arms, "Curt! Did they-"

"I'm fine!" he groaned, sinking into the couch with some help, "I fell on my fucking knee- ah!" he gasped as soon as Owen's fingers brushed against his once recovering knee, "Owen, that fucking hurts !"

"Sorry."

"I shot you!"

"You missed, love."

“I thought you were-” Curt gasped again as his knee struck the ground: “I thought you were that fucker- shit- Owen, he knocked on my door. The bedroom door.”

Owen felt his heart stop for a moment: “You mean-”

“He was inside the house !”

Chapter Text

It wasn’t until three miles away from their safehouse that Curt spoke up.

“Now we know it’s not teenagers, I guess.” he joked. Owen was not in the mood for jokes.

“Yes, and now we know we’re in danger.” he snapped, “There is nothing funny about this, Curt.”

The man immediately turned his head away: “Sorry.”

“Curt?”

“Mh?” 

“Don’t joke about this. Please.”

“Jeez, sorry.” Curt mumbled, leaning against the car window.

He looked tired. And somewhat uneasy. Most likely cranky about his knee, but he would get over it if Owen spoiled him sufficiently. Which he was planning to do anyway. He took a left turn and Curt perked up.

“Where are we going?” he asked, “That’s not where the next safehouse is.”

He didn’t answer, so Curt asked again: “Owen, where are we going?”

There was something in his voice that betrayed him. A hint of fear. He’d heard that more often than usual from Curt lately. Probably because he was vulnerable and he knew it; and now whatever healing progress he’d made may have been knocked back by days. Curt despised inactivity. 

It occurred to him then that he hadn’t answered his question and that that was a sign of guilt if he’d ever seen it.

“Curt, do you trust me?” he asked.

“You’re not making it easy.”

“Do you trust me, dear?”

Curt paused. “Yes.” he answered, finally. 

“Good. We’re not going to your safehouse. We’re going to mine.”

“Yours?” Curt’s eyes were wide, “MI6 has a safehouse around here?”

“Not MI6. Me.” Owen swerved into a side road. No other cars in sight. He felt a tingle of nervousness in his hand when Curt glanced at the car door. Like he was looking for a way out. 

“So what you’re saying is- whoa!” he exclaimed as Owen pulled over all of a sudden and turned to him.

“Curt. Listen to me.” he murmured, “I have a theory. So far we’ve stayed in registered safehouses.”

“Yeah, and?”

“And we’ve always been found. So what if they didn’t follow us?” 

“What?”

“What if they’ve somehow got A.S.S. files or something like that?” Owen asked, “What if we turned off our trackers for a few days?”

“Owen, we’ll get- we’ll get in so much trouble for that. That’s unlike you.” Curt grinned, but it didn’t sound sincere. He still sounded nervous. The first thing he had to do was assure Curt of his good intentions. 

He raised his hands to show Curt they were empty.

“Listen, it’s a win-win. If they find us again, we know we’re being followed. If they don’t, we know they have information. We can tell the agencies.” he lied. He had no intention of telling the agencies. Not until he had definitive proof of their innocence. 

“And what if the agencies get suspicious? That would mean dropping off the radar.”

“Yes,” Owen agreed, “But we’re not going M.I.A. so they might not even care.”

“Don’t say that.” Curt frowned.

“Sorry. What do you say, love?”

“I say you’re a crazy son of a bitch, Carvour.” he laughed, “But you’re a crazy son of a bitch with a point.”

His expression fell as he reached for his tracker. 

“You’re going to take responsibility for this if Cynthia asks?” he said, but it was more like a question than a statement. Owen couldn’t help but smile. He knew his interference would make little difference in Cynthia’s wrath, but…

“I’ll do my best.” he promised.

Curt turned off the tracker.

 

The new safehouse was even more isolated than the others, up in the mountains and not a soul around for miles. And it was really bloody cold. 

“I don’t like this.” Curt whined, buried under a mountain of blankets.

Owen glared at him from the warmest corner he could find, with a single, paper thin blanket draped on his shoulders: “Don’t be a b- a baby.” he stuttered, trying to keep his teeth from chattering: “The heating system’s on, it’ll- fuck - it’ll warm up in a few minutes.”

“Yeah, it better!” Curt hissed, “Just make some goddamn tea, Carvour, you fucker.” 

“If I had the energy, I would kick your face in, Mega.”

“That a no?”

“Take a wild fucking guess.”

Curt grumbled something, snuggling into the blankets even more. Grumpy little bastard. 

He looked genuinely adorable. And terribly irritating at the exact same time. And that was Curt Mega in two sentences: a poem by Owen Carvour.

He sighed. It wasn’t even 10 pm and he was already shaking from anxiety. Or maybe the cold. Or both.

"I'm so goddamn tired." Curt complained, and he wanted to roll his eyes so badly, because that was so rich coming from the guy who'd got a chance to sleep in the car. Owen was genuinely exhausted. He felt all the stress, the pressure and the worry of the past few days crushing him slowly into a bloody pulp. He didn't know why this situation distressed him so much more than any other before it, but he didn't have the energy to think about it. Nor the will. It honestly didn't matter as long as it ended, soon .

“I want this to be over.” he admitted, quietly, and Curt nodded in silent agreement. 

10:03pm.

 

The next time Owen opened his eyes, Curt was fast asleep. Bless him. And curse Owen for falling asleep so soon.

He rose quietly from his place in the chair and his hair fell all over his forehead. His body still heavy from sleep, he dragged himself to his feet and stumbled to the kitchenette in the far corner. He felt an overwhelming urge to drink every drop of coffee he could get his hands on, but he had to restrain himself unless he wanted Curt to be mad at him first thing in the morning. Curt.

He sneaked a glance at his sleeping partner. Curt was out cold, face down on the couch, one arm hanging off the side and the other resting beside his head. He looked somewhat agitated compared to the night before.

Owen leaned against the table, admiring every part of his sleeping body. He wondered if maybe he'd taken the wrong approach. How was he going to tell Curt that he'd been planning on disappearing now? He'd seen him in the car. Curt didn't trust him, not completely. Why? In the field, he never questioned Owen grabbing him or pointing a gun just beside his head, and those were signs of immediate danger that any sane person would react to. So why was this different?

He shook his head.

There was something new on his mind; a promise of sorts. He wouldn't be trapped in the corrupt system that was spy agencies anymore, he'd decided that long before his leave; but he wouldn't let Curt be trapped in it, either. 

By whatever means , he swore, I'll get you out of here .

Owen made a promise to himself, but his only witness was the morning star outside. 

He realized it as soon as he looked out the window to see the timid sun.

It was 6:37am.

No one had come.

 

Chapter Text

The next few nights were a blur, spent listening frantically for the knock that never came.

It wasn't until the fifth morning, at 6am sharp, that it sank in for Owen. The knocker wasn't coming. They hadn't found them.

He felt Curt's eyes on him when he started laughing; he knew he must've sounded like a maniac, but he couldn't care less. They were safe!

"Curt!" he laughed, "Curt! The bastard's gone!"

Curt nodded with a dopey grin, but it faded to a look of horror: "Wait. That means-"

"That means we're going rogue!" Owen announced with almost manic glee, realising just a little too late that it was probably coming completely out of left field for poor Curt, who was now looking at him with a mix of confusion, concern and utter terror.

"What?" he blinked.

Owen composed himself to the best of his abilities before even attempting to answer that.

"Curt…" he started, "Doesn't it seem weird to you how they just gave me this much time off? Just to stay with you? No questions asked?"

Curt, clearly caught off-guard, sputtered: "I- well, m… maybe they just think… it's… best?"

A moment of silence.

"Oh my god, why did they do that?" he murmured, his mind completely blown. Owen almost felt sorry for him. He knew how it was to finally realise how much shit went on behind the scenes. How little they mattered.

Hurtful.

But essential.

Curt would get over it, eventually; Owen was already prepared to help him.

"Listen, Curt, this agent that found us all those times? You and I are the only ones who know about this safehouse. If they found us everywhere but here, then-"

" No !" Curt staggered back a step.

He was prepared for that, too. Denial is the first stage of grief, after all.

But he wasn't prepared for what Curt said next.

"No, not yet…" he stuttered, "Not yet, please, I- I thought I had more time, I-"

His breathing grew erratic and his body shifted. Putting too much weight on his broken knee, he cried out and fell against the wall. Owen didn't know whether to grab him and help him sit down or reassure him first.

Curt staggered again, and nearly hit his head, making the decision for him.

"Curt!" he called, grabbing his partner by the shoulders and slinging one of his arms around his neck: "It's alright, dear, I've got you."

Curt tried to pry himself out of his arms and he could swear he felt his heart breaking: "Curt, no, calm down. Easy, love, easy…" he cooed, but it wasn't working.

"Don't say that!!" Curt cried, "Don't say that!!"

There was something both scary and infuriating in his voice. Fear, yes, but worse.

Betrayal.

Why would Curt feel betrayed?

Owen paused. Maybe he was a little too brainwashed to just… accept it. Maybe once he understood that Owen only had his best interests in mind, maybe he'd be more willing to go rogue.

He forced Curt into a chair, then realized a second too late how much worse that would make it. And it did. Curt's good knee landed in his stomach a second later.

"Oof-" 

" Let me go !!" 

Curt was fighting hard and, unfortunately, hard generally meant Owen had no hope of restraining him without a tranquilizer, which he suspected would not help his case. All he could do was pull Curt out of whatever dimension he was stuck in.

"Curt, Curt, my love…" he called, rubbing Curt's back, "Please, listen to me. Let me talk. You're here. You're safe- Curt, I'm not going to hurt you, I would never hurt you, please…"

Slowly, Curt seemed to come back to the present. He slumped in his embrace, looping his arms around Owen's neck.

"Curt?"

"Mhm?"

"Will you listen to me, love?"

Curt took a moment to answer.

"Yes."

 

Owen placed a mug of steaming tea in front of Curt. He had emptied half a bottle of honey into it, because of course he had. Sweet little moron.

He sat in front of him, letting the steam from his mug seep into his pores and relax his frown. He had no idea how he was going to approach the subject with Curt.

"Owen?"

He snapped out of it: "Yes, dear?"

"I'm sorry I freaked out. There's…" Curt trailed off.

Silence.

Owen leaned forward a bit: "Curt, listen. I'm sorry I startled you. I need you to understand that I'm only trying t… to protect you. I want you to be safe."

"Spies can't be safe, Owen. We made that bargain long ago."

Owen laughed bitterly: "Yeah, I know. But I don't want you to be trapped in an agency full of people who would rather see you dead than compromised."

"Like you wouldn't."

"If I did, I would've shot you the moment you opened your big mouth and started giving me and Oleg information." he pointed out with just a pinch of salt in his voice.

Curt didn't deny it. He even smiled.

"Listen, Curt." he continued, "I worry about you. And me. But mostly you. I have a plan, to go rogue. Leave this life behind. Start our own." he added, very quietly.

"Owen, I-"

"I know it's hard. But I can't put you in that position again. Please, Curt. I can't see you get hurt anymore. It's…" he felt his throat tighten, "It's becoming too much."

The admission gave him immense relief. It was like lifting a whole building off his chest. Curt didn't seem half as relieved, for some reason; he kept running his hand through his hair, tea completely abandoned and forgotten on the table in front of him.

"That's nice, Owen." he murmured, "That's all well and good. But they will find us."

"No, th-"

"Yes, they will. We can't run forever." Curt finally looked up at him with the eyes of a stranger. A stranger who'd been through the wringer. His shining brown eyes were nearly dead, almost unrecognisable, and Owen nearly fell out of his chair. What on Earth could have happened to Curt to make him behave that way? 

"Curt-"

"No. No, Owen, don't speak like that." he shook his head, and his eyes were shining again, not with life, but with tears, "Don't say that. Because that means you- I-" 

He bit his lip and refused to speak the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

Curt didn't address their conversation again until the day they ran out of food and Owen had to travel about half an hour to the nearest market. 

"I'll explain everything soon." he promised, kissed his forehead, and then sent him on his way.

Owen could hardly focus on the road. What did Curt mean, explain ? What did he need to explain? What was he hiding? And where did the kiss come from? Curt hadn’t kissed his forehead in… well, ever. He was more of a lip kind of kisser. 

He nearly forgot the coffee in his confusion (and that would surely not earn him any points with Curt), stumbling back from the tills at the very last second to grab some. He found himself wishing to impress him, even more so than usual; why, he had no idea, but that was how he ended up with a ridiculously large box of candy.

To say he was nervous as he made his way to the car would be the understatement of the century. He hated playing this whole waiting game they'd been forced to play. So when his watch alerted him of an incoming call from Curt, it took him less than a second to put the shopping bags down and answer.

"Curt! Is everything alright?"

Heavy breathing on the other side. Raspy, short, heavy breaths. Unnerving at best, blood-curdlingly terrifying at worst. 

"Curt?" he repeated, "Can you hear me?"

" Yes ." Curt finally answered. His voice sounded… suspiciously rough, and Owen immediately found himself brushing up on their emergency codes.

"Curt, I'm still in town. Would you care for some white chocolate?"

Neither of them fancied white chocolate much. White chocolate was, in fact, code for is someone threatening you?

He didn't know what to expect from such a sudden call, but to say he was relieved when Curt said no would be like saying that the Sun is a little bigger than the Earth. A massive understatement.

Owen really hoped the panic that gripped his guts tight wasn't showing in his voice. He found himself walking as fast as he could go to get to the car, carrying two bags of groceries with less care than they deserved.

"Alright, love, stay put."

" Hurry ."

"I will."

Curt was being worryingly laconic in his choice of words. It was unusual. And rather terrifying.

"Curt, is everything alright?"

" Y- " a wheezing cough interrupted whatever he was trying to say.

"Curt??"

" Fine. 'm fine. Just hurry. "

Curt hung up before he could request further explanation and Owen decided then and there that the speed limit was a construct and decidedly not worth whatever danger Curt was in.

 

Curt was honestly worrying him.

Not just because of the cryptic phone call, either; ever since the weapons’ facility, Curt had made a near 180 turn. Owen wondered what could have happened to him in the month or two they hadn’t seen each other. He wondered what Curt was hiding.

He was hiding something, no doubt. 

Owen felt his hand tremble on the steering wheel. He had no idea. He had no fucking clue what Curt was hiding, or worse, how he could help him. Curt’s eyes were dull when he looked into them. He slept less than the last time he’d seen him. He starkly refused any sort of alcohol.

Worse of all, though, were his delirious whispers as he slept, when he couldn’t hear himself talk. Most of it was completely incoherent, but when he actually managed to piece it together...

Owen, please!

This isn’t you!

Tatiana!!

He screamed in his sleep sometimes. He screamed and he cried and when he woke up to Owen’s worried face, he flinched back. Owen had dared to ask him once, who this Tatiana was. Curt had nearly started crying, and he’d never brought it up again.

All throughout, promise after promise of an explanation that never came.

Soon enough , Owen thought, and drove faster.

 

He nearly threw the door down when he got back, leaving the shopping bags in the passenger seat just in case they needed to book it out of there. 

Curt !” he called out, caution to the wind, “ Curt, are you okay ??”

A splash of red on the floor.

He froze. Next to the couch lay the dead body of a stranger.

And on the couch…

“Curt!” he called out, again, kneeling next to him. No response. Curt wasn’t moving. Owen felt his heart pause and snap in two; and rage surged through him, hot and painful, seeing the bruises on his neck. The stranger’s blood soaked into his trousers, but he didn’t care. Curt wasn’t moving.

Owen’s hand hovered above his chest. Still, in wait, in denial, perhaps; he could feel a scream building in his throat, the muscles tensing, the legs weakening, and he waited for the inevitable collapse.

But then Curt’s chest rose slightly, and fell back. Slowly, but rhythmically. He was breathing. Owen felt the overwhelming urge to hold him tight to his chest but, if the bruises on his neck and his raspy voice were any indication, Curt could use all the air he could get. 

He wanted to cry.

Someone had found them, someone knew and wanted them dead; worse, they wanted Curt dead. 

His eyes fell to Curt's left hand, laying lifeless between two cushions. He was holding a syringe.

Very carefully, Owen pried it out of his fingers. 

It contained a pale blue liquid he couldn't recognise, but it was… nearly full. And yet there was the smell of blood on the needle. Presumably, Curt's.

Owen checked Curt's thighs and found no sign of the syringe having been used on him. Then he checked his arms. Intact.

Then he finally forced himself to look closely at the purple and red handprints on Curt's neck, and he found it: a tiny hole, with a faint metallic smell. He grasped Curt's hand tightly, as if that could wake him up.

It didn't.

Whatever the man had drugged him with, though, he clearly hadn't planned for Curt to stab him right back with something bigger than a syringe. A pencil, to be exact, stabbed into the right spot to do some serious damage. Curt was a resourceful little bastard, and it certainly would have done the stranger some good to know that.

Curt.

Curt was unconscious, with some unknown substance in his system and a ring of bruises around his neck, and Owen was just kneeling there.

But he was alive. Owen almost wished the stranger was, too, so he could let off some steam. He had to wonder if that man lying on his stomach with a hole in his neck was the mysterious knocker. He couldn’t see his face, though. 

Slowly, he grabbed the corpse’s shoulder and flipped him on his back. 

His breath caught in his throat.

Samuel Greene, MI6.

Chapter Text

Owen didn’t know what to think anymore. The truth stared him in the face with a cruel sneer, and its breath smelled like gunpowder and his lover’s blood.

Samuel Greene, MI6 .

He reached for Curt’s hand, forgetting that he couldn’t squeeze it back. His hand was hot. In fact, his whole body radiated an unnatural heat.

Owen pressed his lips to Curt’s forehead.

It burned.

His eyes immediately ran to the syringe he still held in his hand. And whatever poison was in it.

Do we have a thermometer ?

Owen frantically searched the room for a thermometer, praying he didn’t have to leave the cabin and go shopping again. He couldn’t go to a hospital yet. They would be found. They would be separated. The last thing he wanted was to be separated from Curt; if he did, he was sure he wouldn’t see him again.

Samuel Greene, MI6 .

Not a pleasant person by any stretch, but not one of Owen’s enemies, either. Same as any other colleague. He had barely exchanged five words with Owen. Which only left room for one explanation.

They know .

 

When he miraculously found a thermometer in the medicine cabinet, he wasted no time in sticking it under Curt's tongue.

Thankfully it was a double reading thermometer.

103.1 Fahrenheit.

39.5 Celsius.

Christ .

It wasn't fatally high, but it was pretty damn high. He would have to keep it in check.

Curt felt heavy and scorching hot against his back when he dragged him to the bedroom, away from the stink of blood and Greene's pallid face. Samuel fucking Greene. MI6.

Owen kept repeating the name to himself as if he needed any more proof of MI6’s (if not the A.S.S.’s) involvement in this mess. No, not a mess . An attempted murder.

They'd tried to murder Curt.

He felt his legs grow weak and he leaned against his partner almost unconsciously. He was burning up. Worse than before.

Almost 40°C.

Ice .

I need ice .

Owen stumbled to the kitchen, hitting his hip on a chair on the way in.

Ice .

His temperature was fine, yet he felt like he was the one with the fever. He had to remind himself, once again, Curt is breathing .

Fixing an ice pack was nearly second nature to him. His trousers were bunching up at the knee with drying blood.

Samuel Greene, MI6.

He patted down Curt's forehead, neck and wrists.

And he opened his eyes for a moment.

"Owen?" he whispered, raucously, and Owen clutched his hand in response.

"I'm here, love."

Curt squeezed his eyes shut. His expression was pinched with pain and his breath came out rattled: "H… he-" he coughed, "...he showed up out of nowhere-"

"I know, Curt."

"Where-"

"Dead. You'll be alright."

"Good… good…"

Curt closed his eyes and didn't speak again.

It occurred to him when he kissed Curt's forehead, with the excuse of checking his way too high temperature. A shiver ran up his spine.

We need to hide.

They knew their location. They'd come way too close, and Owen was running out of safehouses. He had one left. Only one.

Further away from potential help than any of the others; hidden in a cave. It was not… ideal. But Curt was more vulnerable than ever then and he needed, so badly needed, to keep him away from their agencies.

It would be risky to move him.

But there was no choice.

While Samuel Greene's corpse cooled off in the living room, Owen threw every medicine he could get his hands on and anything useful that he could find into his bag, carried Curt to the car, and drove off without looking back.

 

There was silence in the car aside from the quiet rumble of the engine and Curt's raspy breaths. It was both reassuring and unnerving somehow.

He was breathing, so he was alive.

He wasn't breathing well, so he wasn't okay.

Owen reached out, just for a moment, to brush his fingers against the back of Curt's limp hand. It was hot, still as hot as before. Owen cursed under his breath. He couldn't give Curt any medicine while he was unconscious, he only had pills with him.

He pressed down on the accelerator just a little bit harder.

He knew he was alone. If he lost Curt, he was alone. Curt needed protection then, more than ever, and Owen wanted to provide it. He wanted it so badly. But the poison was making everything so much worse. So much more complicated. Most of all, he couldn't figure out why : why the poison, when Curt was already being strangled? Why not one or the other? They'd clearly meant to inject him with a bigger dose and, judging by the massive fever he was getting just by the few drops he'd been given, a bigger dose would have killed him without effort. They hadn't wanted to kidnap him. They'd wanted to kill him.

So why ?

Was there something he was missing?

It was at that moment that he realized something.

The car had gone silent. Silent, except for the rumble of the engine. Curt's breathing… was not as audible, anymore.

Owen's head snapped to the side in alarm, and found only his partner's pale face, unmoving.

“Curt?” he whispered, hating the crack in his voice: “ Curt !”

All he received in response was a ragged breath and a scream, so high-pitched that Curt’s voice couldn’t quite reach it and gave out halfway through. He tugged on the seatbelt like it was holding him prisoner. Maybe he thought it was.

“Curt, calm down.” he murmured, in the most reassuring tone he could. He had to pull over.

He didn't risk grabbing Curt. Instead, he slipped his hand between his stiff fingers and gave a reassuring squeeze, and it seemed to work. Curt didn’t wake up. But at least he wasn’t struggling against a damn seatbelt.

Owen brushed his hair away from his burning forehead.

"I'm sorry, Curt." he murmured.

The road stretched ahead of him, infinitely long, like a dark, venomous snake. Empty. Quiet.

Terrifying.

Ready to bite.

He didn't know what to do if they were found again. Run away to the Arctic, probably. Run as far as they could get. Build a home under the ice, whatever got them away from MI6 and probably the A.S.S.

Owen would never admit it out loud, never again, but he was fucking terrified.

His blood froze in his veins.

Curt had started coughing.

Louder, louder, than quiet: he wasn't getting enough air to make noise anymore.

"Curt?" he called, dumbstruck, and received no answer. He didn't know what to do. He didn't know what to do. Curt's breathing was erratic.

And then he quieted down.

And he was breathing again.

Owen was sure he would die of a heart attack before they ever got to the safehouse. He couldn't take Curt to a hospital, but if he kept having trouble breathing…

No, that wasn't it. He couldn't trust anyone to help Curt. Anyone but himself.

He sighed deeply.

And then Curt grabbed the steering wheel and swerved them both off the road.

Chapter Text

Owen had to brace himself to avoid hitting his head on the steering wheel when the car swerved out of control and the brakes shrieked angrily in an attempt to stop it. His shoulder slammed painfully against the windshield, so hard that he could feel it bend under his weight; thankfully, though, it did not break.

The car came to a screeching halt when its side collided with a tree on the side of the road (thankfully, on the back of the car, where it couldn't hurt either of them).

Owen groaned, shaking his rapidly bruising shoulder uncomfortably, before he remembered where he was and with who.

His head snapped to the side: "Curt, what the fu-"

The rest died in his throat.

Curt's eyes were wide; wide and terrified, and his mouth was hanging open in a silent scream; or rather, a silent gasp. But no air was coming through.

"Curt?" he called, and his voice died again when Curt struggled to suck in the smallest breath. Owen flicked on the light, trying to angle it so he could see into Curt's throat. And, from what he could see…

"It's swollen." he murmured. Curt's eyes widened even more, and he was quick to add: "Don't think about it, love, you just... focus on breathing and I'll- I'll… think of something."

He hated how uncertain he sounded, and so did Curt, who was holding his hand so tight he might break it. He was strong . In terms of raw power, he'd always been stronger than Owen.

Too bad Owen really needed to find something to help him. And therefore leave Curt's side.

He gently pried his fingers away from his hand, murmuring apologies and reassurances, explaining exactly what he was doing and hoping Curt understood.

He didn't.

Owen ran outside.

No cars in sight. No help in sight.

Only fields beside them. He ran. He ran past the curve of the road. Somewhere between the grain stalks there was light.

Headlights, he realized about a second before the driver saw him.

The car came to a screeching halt inches away from him. It was a sleek, black car, with tinted windows; a handsome young man stepped out of it with a frown on his face. His irritation quickly turned to alarm, though, and he asked Owen if he was alright.

“My…” he stuttered, “My friend needs a doctor. Immediately. Sir. We’re not- we’re not locals, I don’t know where…” he trailed off.

The young man nodded sadly: “There’s not a hospital for miles, sir.”

Owen felt his heart sink. The man seemed to be debating something with himself.

“Sir?” he called. Owen raised his head.

“There is…” the man hesitated, “There is something I can do.”

Owen did not hesitate.

 

Curt had a worryingly bluish complexion when the young man (Henri, he said) lodged a tube in his throat. Which looked horrifying, but at least it would allow him to breathe. Thankfully, he was out cold.

Henri was apparently a nurse. Owen thanked his lucky star.

“He still needs medical attention.” the kid pointed out when he saw Owen slump against the side of the car. But there was less urgency in his voice, at least. Now to find a doctor that wouldn’t let them be found by their agencies.

Owen nodded: “Yes. I know. Thank you.”

Henri didn’t leave.

He raised his brow at him: “I believe I can take it from here.”

“You said you didn’t know where the hospital is.”

Owen paused. That was true, he had told him that and he really shouldn’t have. But he couldn’t just leave. The kid was currently sitting on the floor of the car, and just throwing him out was not an option. He owed him. On the other hand, if he had any sort of negative reaction when Owen told him the truth… well, the poor boy was severely outmatched. Henri looked to be well fit, but he was a med student, not a special agent. If push came to shove…

"Listen." said Owen, placing himself in front of him. He was at an advantage in every possible way, he reminded himself, "I can't take him to a hospital. There's someone we're trying to avoid."

"The police?" Henri murmured, almost defiantly.

Owen settled for a half truth.

"Not the police, I promise."

He hesitated: "Spies."

Technically not a lie. Not the whole truth, but not a lie. And that omission was enough to change Henri's suspicious demeanor immediately.

"I know who can help you." he declared, standing up to face Owen.

 

The building was inconspicuous enough to look like an office, but close to civilization enough that Owen sincerely doubted there could be something shady going on there. That didn’t stop him from being cautious because yes, he was desperate, yes, he was in Henri’s debt, but he was fully prepared to deck the kid if he tried anything.

But all he saw when he walked in, carrying Curt in his arms, was a group of young men and women conversing calmly in front of a vending machine. Some of them wore white doctor’s coats, one wore scrubs, two were dressed normally.

He almost didn’t hear Henri give the alarm, but he saw, with great clarity, the group’s heads snap back, with genuine concern in their eyes.

Really, the first moment Owen felt himself and his surroundings was the moment Curt was unceremoniously (but very gently) pried out of his arms.

He struggled for only a moment. A girl with bright red hair grabbed his arm with more force than he would've expected: "Sir, we need to take him to the office."

He gave her a completely undeserved glare, but she wasn't intimidated, and he relented.

 

He didn't trust them as far as he could throw them, but at least they were allowing him to… to… stand by the office and look through the window? The door was clearly unlocked. He wasn't sure he had the stomach for it. He wasn't sure he could forbid them to touch Curt and simultaneously want him to be alright. He wasn't sure he wanted to watch, though he was grateful he could.

The tube came out bloodied at the tip when they extracted it, but they didn't seem to be too alarmed.

Stay calm .

They gave him what Owen recognized as a muscle relaxant. Curt seemed to breathe easier.

Stay calm.

They checked Curt's temperature again. A young man in a lab coat took notes.

Stay calm.

"Mr Carvour?"

His head snapped to the side.

There was a young woman there, timidly clutching a folder in her hands. One of the girls who'd been in the group he'd seen upon first entering the building.

"How do you know my name?"

She smiled apologetically: "You're not exactly a nobody."

The woman in front of him looked completely normal. Pretty, even, with long black curls framing her face. The soft, pale pink of her sweater made a nice contrast against her dark skin. There was a small nametag, pinned neatly on her left breast, against her heart.

Hope

“Please, take a seat.” she invited. He was sitting in front of her before he even realized it. Her voice was warm and welcoming, and he wanted to listen to her. He wanted her to keep talking.

She gave him a look of pity.

“I know you must be… confused.” she started, “As you’ve been told, I’m here to explain.”

“Who are you people?”

Hope’s smile brightened.

“We call ourselves Chimera. "

Chapter Text

"Chimera?"

"Yes."

"Like…" Owen snapped his fingers, "...the fire breathing creature from Greek mythology."

Hope smiled: "Precisely. I see you're a learned man, agent."

"Don't call me that."

It came out colder than he intended, and he felt a little remorse when the girl winced.

" Agent , you mean?" she repeated.

"Yes."

"Why?"

She leaned forward a bit to listen. She seemed… genuinely interested. There was something compelling in the way the girl spoke. He couldn't quite place it, but it must've been enough; he was speaking before he even realized it: "Your colleague may have mentioned I was running away."

"Henri is one of our nurses." she replied, "He didn't have much time to talk to me. Between you and me, he's also infuriatingly vague when it comes to mission reports. He essentially ran past me yelling about rogue agents, one injured. And then left."

"He sounds like a difficult colleague."

"He's a sweetheart. Just slightly unprofessional." she shrugged.

"And you." Owen pointed at her, which caused her to cock her brow in confusion.

"Me?"

"You. Do you have a surname I could call you by, love?"

He wasn't expecting her to reply.

"It's Adeyemi." she smiled, "Most people just call me Hope, though. Easier to pronounce, according to them."

"Oh."

He was completely stunned for a moment. Hope giggled: "What's wrong, Mr Carvour? You weren't expecting me to answer?"

"I… no, not really. Why would you give your full name to an agent?" he wondered, and his eyes narrowed.

"It's my real name, in case you're wondering. It's on my birth certificate and ID card. Here at Chimera we don't believe in secrets." she frowned: "I'm sure you've been interrogated before, Mr Carvour. Unpleasant, right?"

"I… yes, quite."

"I have it on good authority that the same is true for just about any spy who's been in the force as long as you have."

"Likely true." he nodded. He couldn't tell where she was going with her point.

"We would like to put an end to that." Hope straightened out with a proud smile on her face, "Spy work. Agencies. Secrets. Interrogations. There is only one secret Chimera employees are required to keep."

Owen hadn't even realized it, but he'd began gravitating closer towards Hope, out of mad curiosity. He straightened out with an awkward cough: "And what would that be?"

The girl gave a mischievous grin: "We don't tell the government we exist."

"And yet you told me."

"You said it yourself, you're not an agent anymore."

"Touché."

Hope tutted approvingly: "By the way, Mr Carvour, when I said we don't keep secrets, I mean it. I'll be very honest about that. You may see people here that you find strange, and no one here is allowed to judge. Not even guests. Is that clear?"

Owen raised his brow: "Crystal."

"Good."

Hope gave him a once-over, attentive and scrupulous, then smiled almost tenderly: "You know, you remind me of someone. Same look in your eyes."

"Pray do tell." he encouraged.

"I don't think you'll see her around this facility." she shrugged, "I don't get to see her often, either. But I get to see her more often than I did when she worked for the CIA at least."

She chuckled nostalgically, and the look in her eyes was so very familiar to Owen. He dared to ask what was on his mind, but she beat him to it.

"She's-"

"My girlfriend, yes. My fiancée soon, if all goes well."

Hope's smile turned bright and dreamy, and she twirled the pencil in her hand with a soft chuckle, as if she hadn't just dropped a bombshell on him. He stared at her, mouth agape: "Oh my god." he whispered.

"What?" she shrugged, "I said we don't keep secrets here. I meant it. There are so many like me here. The girl with the red hair, Christine? She's just found a new girlfriend. Henri? He helped his friends support themselves when they were kicked out of their jobs for loving the wrong person . And me…"

She paused.

"And you?"

"Me, well…" her tone turned venomous: "...maybe I was sick of seeing the love of my life go off and risk getting herself killed every time. Maybe, when Chimera saved her life and cared for her more than CIA ever had, I started to have my doubts."

She wasn't smiling anymore.

Owen scanned her with his eyes again. She made for… pleasant conversation. The first he'd had in a few days. Ever since Curt had freaked out and refused to tell him about his worries.

"May I say, then, we are agreed?" Hope smiled again, extending her hand.

"Agreed on what?"

"That Chimera will shelter you as long as you need on the condition that you never reveal our existence to the government."

He would like to say he hesitated. That would've been a lie.

"Agreed."

 

Everything was okay.

That was what they'd told him. Curt was sleeping off his fever, and Owen was sitting with Henri and a friend of his, a well-dressed young man with long black hair and square glasses who called himself Damon.

"So…" said Damon, a toxicologist, as it turned out, "I examined the poison you found."

"Yes?" Owen encouraged, maybe a bit too impatiently for the fragile-looking young man. He was very tall, but nowhere near as muscular as Henri, although his high-collar dress shirt and thick blue sweater helped to hide his overly thin frame.

"I haven't seen anything like this in a while." tutted the doctor, turning a vial of the blue liquid in his hand, "It's essentially used to stimulate blood circulation and pressure, usually for medical purposes. We normally give it to patients who suffer from low pressure or anemia, but not this much, and not this concentrated. This is potent. Thus the fever. And, if you gave this to someone who was being strangled…"

"It might cause even more damage to the circulatory system and cause excessive swelling of the throat." Henri interrupted, earning a half-hearted glare from his friend, "Thus the frankly disturbing amount of bruises that wouldn't have otherwise for-"

"Thank you, Henri." Owen cut him off, "I think I get it. Is he in… is he in any danger?"

Damon shook his head: "I'll check on him later, but I think the poison's run its course. His fever's already breaking."

"Then, do you think you could-"

"We'll be on our way now." Henri interrupted, again, which was apparently very common, judging by Damon's dejected face. The two of them stood up, shook Owen's hand, and then they were gone. Damon bumped into a table on his way out, apologized profusely, bumped into the door, then shut it behind him, red in the face.

Clumsy kid .

Owen stared at his sleeping partner for what felt like forever.

"What am I going to do with you?" he sighed. Curt didn't answer, obviously. "You never could stay out of trouble." he continued, "Ever. It's almost impressive how little it takes you to get into trouble bigger than yourself. Really, love. How do you even- how do you even manage that?"

He took hold of Curt's arm in the most innocuous spot he could think of. Just in case.

"I don't know what to say…" he murmured, "I don't know what to say…"

Some time passed before he finished the sentence. Quiet, no more than a whisper, but he finished it.

"I don't know what to say. God, I hope you can hear me." he laughed, bitterly: "If you can… please, listen. I… I've had partners before you. I've had lovers before you. And… and that is what you were to me. A partner and a lover. But I, recently, I… God, I don't know what you've done to me. I have never been so utterly desperate to protect someone as I have you. I care about you."

A moment of silence.

"Fuck," he breathed, "I think I might love you."

Goddammit Carvour , he thought, you love him.

You're in trouble now .

You , he said to himself, holding Curt's hand almost timidly, love him .

Five hours ticked by without change, and he hardly noticed them.

5:29am.

Outside, someone shouted.

 

Chapter Text

He ignored the shouting, to the best of his abilities. It sounded like another patient had come in, but the panic died down quickly.

It felt like hours had passed by the time the door creaked open.

Henri stood at the door in his blue scrubs, pale as Death. His jaw clenched and relaxed, almost at random, and his hand trembled when he closed the door behind him.

"You… might have to wait a while." he stuttered, gripping the doorknob so tightly that it looked like it would burst under his hand, "For the next visit, I mean."

Owen glanced at Curt's face, not unhealthily pale but still paler than Henri: "Why?"

Henri's jaw clenched even tighter.

"It's Damon." he said, "He passed out in the hallway. He'll be on IV for a few hours."

Owen felt his own face lose some colour.

"Oh, good God. Is he alright?" he asked.

Henri nodded with a forced smile: "Just low blood sugar. Happens all the time. He's been working a bit too much overtime, that's all. Not eating enough, you know. The works."

"If you say so-"

"I do!!" the nurse stuttered, "Say so. I mean. I do say so. I'll… go check on him. See you later."

"See y-"

The door slammed shut.

 

Damon was a no-show for three hours, but Hope came to visit once, at around 7am. She handed him a small cup of tea. It was that absolutely terrible tea from the vending machines, but it was rather calming to drink something hot and he thanked her anyway.

"Any change?" she asked him, nodding at Curt.

"Nothing I can see."

"Mh." she nodded, "I'm sorry about the delay. Damon's the only poison expert we have and he hasn't been feeling too well."

Owen gave her a tired smile: "I understand. Let the kid rest."

He noticed her hovering around a chair and silently invited her to sit down, which she did. Very gratefully. She'd pulled a night shift, clearly.

Hope yawned: "It's quite cold this morning."

Owen hummed an agreement. She rambled on and on for about ten minutes about the most disparate subjects, ranging from the weather, to her pet tortoise that had died when she was ten years old, to her girlfriend Camille's impossibly pretty eyes. The latter subject took up about 90% of the conversation, and Owen could almost picture this Camille's eyes by the end of it. They were hazel, apparently, almost golden, with the slightest hint of green. Though he didn't have a face to place them in, those eyes were there, as real as any other product of his mind, and as precious as the eyes of anyone else he knew. They were precious to him because he saw them through the rosy lens of love, one he knew very well, and he knew then that, if he were to describe Curt's eyes to Hope, she would see through him like he had seen through her.

"You love her." he said, simply, when Hope paused, for breath or to make up some other flowery description of her girlfriend. As pleasant as it was to listen to her, it was strange to hear her speak of her love so freely, so openly, to a stranger; it was strange to hear her speak of a woman the same way another girl would unashamedly speak of a man.

Hope, bright and chipper even when she was tired, nodded sincerely: "I love her." she repeated.

"When will you see her again?"

"Soon." she smiled, "Soon enough. She's on her way, I hear."

Owen couldn't help the proud twinkle that sparked in his eyes. God, she was so young. Couldn't be much older than twenty. And there she was, unafraid, beautiful, joyful, gushing about the girl she loved in the same way Owen had so often wished he could talk about his crushes.

He gave her a little pat on the shoulder. Her sweater was soft.

"If you do make it official, I wish you the best."

He meant every word of it.

She nodded enthusiastically, and he felt his grip on her shoulder tighten unconsciously.

"Really." he repeated, "I wish you every happiness. Hold her as close as you can. Take a friend's advice and keep it close to your chest until it's safe."

Hope nodded again, less enthusiastically, but just as attentively.

"Thank you, sir." she said.

She left soon after.

 

Damon's step was unsure when he walked in, but he didn't seem to have trouble standing anymore.

"Do you feel any better?" Owen asked him, patting the back of the chair beside him.

Damon nodded, with a tired smile: "I'm late. I'll need to take a blood sample."

Owen granted him silent permission to touch Curt by moving his chair back a bit, watching the young doctor as he put a tourniquet on Curt's arm and flicked his fingers against the crook of his elbow until he could see the vein pulsing, blue and tired, under the skin.

Curt didn't react at all.

Until the needle pierced his skin.

His eyes flew open then and, with pinpoint accuracy, his hand shot up to grab the poor doctor by the collar of his shirt. Damon yelped, but had the sense to let go of the syringe immediately, before it could tear the skin. Owen felt himself freeze, caught in the cataclysmic crash of a thousand different emotions ranging from joy to terror and from panic to amusement. Curt was awake. He was also attacking his fragile-looking doctor. The doctor who was trying to help him. He was alive. Awake?

Oh, Curt was awake, alright.

And he was well aware of Damon, and he had enough strength left in him to immediately put him in a headlock.

Owen finally found it in himself to move.

One hand on Damon's chest. The other under Curt's arm.

One decisive tug, and the doctor crumpled to the floor with a cough.

"Curt!" he shouted, pinning his partner to the hospital bed as gently as he could afford to, "Curt!! Calm down!!"

Curt looked him in the eyes.

For a split second, there, Owen saw anger. And then Curt tried to headbutt him in the nose and he had to resort to blocking his head with the crook of his neck, lifting his chin up so Curt couldn't bite him. Because Curt was not above biting and they both knew it. Owen thanked every deity he could think of that Curt wasn't there with a scarring wound, because it would have undoubtedly reopened.

" Curt !!" he yelled again, "It's me!! Stop moving !!"

He nearly crushed his partner when Curt finally got the memo and stopped moving. He moved away in a hurry, finally looking in Damon's direction to check on him.

He looked… frightened, which was understandable, but the way he struggled to get his shirt closed again was a little strange. Owen took a step towards him and felt something hard under the sole of his shoe. A button. How had the kid not realized he was missing a button?

He knelt in front of the doctor and handed him the button with an open palm. Damon paused.

" Oh …" he murmured, in a breath, "Thanks…"

Even as he put his hand forward to retrieve the button, his hand stayed on his collar, keeping it firmly closed.

When he excused himself and left the room in a hurry (bumping into the door frame on the way out), Owen finally turned to Curt. He felt whatever sarcastic or scolding remark he had thought about making slip away in a moment.

"Curt," he breathed, "you alright?"

"Been better." Curt shrugged, "Been a lot worse."

Owen hoped his laugh didn't sound too much like a sob: "Good. Good to know, dear."

"Now can you tell me where the fuck we are? Because I've been to enough hospitals to know this one may be slightly illegal."

Curt sounded like his usual self for once, if a bit raspy. Owen laughed out loud this time, out of both relief, amusement and the usual embarrassment that came with being seen beside Curt: "We're… so, um…" he started, trying to contain his laughter, "We're in this facility, which is owned by an… well, I don't want to say agency, let's say… association?"

Curt seemed to grow a little pale: "Who are they?"

"They're apparently called Chimera."

" What ?"

Chapter Text

" What ?"

Curt's tone was harsh and cold. Owen almost flinched: "C… Chimera. What's wrong?" he added when Curt let out a dark chuckle.

"What's wrong. What's wrong , he asks!!" he laughed, in a bad parody of Owen's accent, " Everything !! Everything is wrong."

His tone went from cold, to mocking, to heartbreakingly pleading: "I'm better now. I… I'm doing better. We should… we should thank Chimera and be on our way now, we've bothered them long enough."

"Curt-"

"Owen, please !"

He felt his heart crack a little. That was the exact same thing he said in his nightmares, in the exact same voice. Did Curt know something about Chimera?

He sat on the edge of the bed and kept a firm hold on Curt's shoulder to prevent him from getting up: "Curt, what's wrong? Have you heard of Chimera before?"

" Before …" Curt repeated, pensively, "I guess you could say that."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm not telling you…"

" Curt !"

"Let me finish!! I'm not telling you, until we're out of here." he smiled, and the dead-eyed stranger was before him once again, "That's the deal."

Under more favourable circumstances, Owen would have agreed with him and been done with it. But these were decidedly not favourable circumstances, and he was running out of options for where to hide. Chimera had been nothing but kind to them. Obviously, Curt's reaction warranted a deeper investigation into their intent and purpose, but until then…

"Give it a couple days, Curt. Just until you're-"

" No !!"

"You're in no shape to travel."

"And you're in no position to tell me what to do."

"Curt…" he shook his head in disbelief, "Curt, love, you can barely stand. You were unconscious for almost a day."

"Still choked a guy alright."

"Yes, about that…" Owen sighed, "You can't just do that."

"Watch me."

"Curt!" he scolded, "What on Earth has the poor boy ever done to you?"

Curt pouted like a child, his normal reaction when he decided that silence was better than admitting to being wrong. Owen resumed his tirade: "You can't attack a stranger and expect me not to lecture you, love. He was trying to help you. So let him."

"But-"

"No, Curt, I'm not done. Since I've arrived here, they've been nothing but kind to you. And…" his voice dropped to a whisper, "And… they don't mind… people like us, here."

That seemed to give Curt pause: "What do you mean?"

"I mean that I've already run into a lesbian who wouldn't stop gushing about her girlfriend and a guy who was knowingly rooming with two bisexuals." Owen deadpanned. Curt froze in his tracks.

"So," he continued, dryly, "I'm sorry for trusting them with your life when I had no other option. I haven't told them about us. But just know that we're safer here than we've ever been with our agencies."

He didn't stand up or storm out. It would've been childish. Besides, Curt seemed calmer.

"Alright." he said, "No more attacking doctors. Just promise me one thing, Owe."

"Yes, dear?"

Curt's face melted into that of the dead-eyed stranger from before: "Promise me you won't join them."

"I-" Owen was taken aback, "Why?"

"I'll explain it. But not here. Not until we're out of here."

Owen couldn't convince him otherwise.

So he gave his word.

 

Henri came in not five minutes later with a scowl on his face. He didn't even let Owen start his usual, rehearsed apology.

"I would appreciate it if you didn't attack my friend. Ever, but especially now. He's still weak."

His tone was ice cold and there was no kindness left in his hazel eyes. Owen felt a sudden, unsettling awareness of how buff the kid was for a nurse, and how he looked like he could snap his arm like a twig if he so desired. And he almost seemed to. But his anger was mostly directed at Curt, who had no reaction at all beyond a small nod and a half-hearted "'kay."

Henri didn't take very kindly to that: "You should rest, Agent Mega. It'll do you no good to strain yourself so early."

Then he was gone.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" asked Owen, and Curt nodded.

"He's mad at you." said Owen, at the same time as Curt sighed: "His friend's been tortured."

Owen's head snapped back: " What ? No!!"

Curt groaned like a student being given homework after the bell: "Come on, Owen, it's not that hard. He seemed more freaked out about losing a button than about being strangled. He's hiding something."

"We don't know what that is, though!" he protested, "For all we know, he's got an embarrassing tattoo."

"Yes, and his fainting spell, poor coordination, and general anxiety are all coincidences." Curt deadpanned.

"They might be!" Owen insisted, "And even if he has been…" he trailed off, "Still!! We don't know what happened to him before Chimera found him. He might've been captured."

"Or," Curt shrugged, "Chimera might be evil."

Owen couldn't help the irritated groan that escaped him: " Why are you so determined that they're evil?"

The stranger smiled at him.

 

Curt had agreed to apologize to the doctor when he next came to visit. Owen did not trust that promise for a second.

The dead-eyed stranger had appeared more and more often since Chimera had found them, and he was terrifying. Owen didn't know how to deal with a complete stranger. A cynical, unyielding, heartless stranger like the one he saw in Curt's eyes sometimes.

His partner allowed the doctor to take a blood sample that time.

"Hey, I'm sorry for attacking you earlier."

"Oh." Damon smiled, shyly, "It's not a problem. It's pretty standard for… well, agents coming off of painkillers."

"I can imagine." Curt nodded, "You ever been on painkillers, Damon? Can I call you Damon?"

"Uh, yes. And yes." the doctor laughed nervously, glancing at the door, "I've been in hospitals before. But I can't say I've ever tried to fight a doctor."

"Good kid." grinned the stranger, "Say, you don't exactly look adventurous. When would you have ended up in a hospital?"

Owen caught on at that moment. He gave the stranger a what the hell are you doing glare, which he didn't respond to. Damon looked like he'd rather be anywhere but there: "Oh, just an accident."

"What kind of accident?"

"Fell from uh… fell from a rope in P.E. once. Broke a few bones."

Curt's tone was sarcastically sympathetic: "Oh, that sounds nasty."

"Well, it was some time ago." Damon smiled, but he was keeping well out of Curt's reach and they both knew it. It was a sound choice, but Curt was strong. Standing a few feet away wouldn't save him.

"You know, Damon…" Curt continued, "I couldn't help but notice you seem a little dizzy sometimes. What's up with that?"

"Low blood pressure."

"Really?"

"Yes. Long time problem."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

"It's alright." Damon glanced in Owen's direction, nervously, and that was all it took for Curt. Without hesitation, he raised his hands and clapped them, inches away from Damon's ear.

And Damon was on the other side of the room in a split second. He stared, wide-eyed, at Curt's hands, rattling the doorknob behind his back. The worst of it, though, was his breath, ragged and fast, which almost let them make out the rabbit pace of his heartbeat.

He opened and closed his dry mouth like he wanted to say something, but didn't know where to start. His eyes darted from Curt, to Owen, to the door behind him.

Finally, without a word, he stumbled outside, leaving the door wide open for two nurses to stare at them in confusion.

Curt stretched his arm out to the open door.

"See?"

Chapter Text

It took Owen a moment to process what he'd just witnessed. But, when he did… he wanted to run away too.

"Curt, what the hell?" he whispered, unconsciously backing away a step. The stranger smiled bitterly: "See? Textbook example of recent PTSD right there."

"And you had to prove it by triggering his symptoms ?" Owen shouted. The room went dead silent. The stranger fled Curt's eyes and there was Curt again, his Curt, the one who still had some semblance of empathy.

"Oh my god, I didn't think about that." he murmured, staring blankly at the wall.

"Yes, I can see that!! Curt, what the hell?"

"I didn't mean to-"

"You scared the hell out of him!!" Owen stood up, backing away a step: "You're scaring me, Curt. What happened to you?"

Curt couldn't answer him.

 

Owen was starting to get scared. And pissed. Mostly because Curt just wouldn't tell him what was wrong, but would do literally anything else that a sane person might think twice about doing. Like casually interrogating the same people who were harbouring them. Curt was good at casual interrogation. Slipping questions into a seemingly harmless conversation, starting with the easy ones. It was a tactic he'd used many times, and one Owen admired for several reasons, not the least of which being that it got them a decent amount of information without anyone getting hurt.

So, while he'd taken little issue with Curt interrogating the doctor, he'd taken many, many issues with what he'd done next.

So had Henri, for that matter, who was very clearly glaring at them from the hallway. His gaze fell on Owen and pierced him true, and it said, in giant glaring letters: that will never happen again or I will kick you both out myself .

Owen agreed, 100%. Damon still came in now and then, but he looked utterly miserable. Like he'd rather be literally anywhere else. And who could blame him?

He was kind to Curt, but kept his due distance. Curt hadn't tried to ask him personal questions again, and he hadn't touched him at all, probably slightly ashamed from their conversation, as he damn well should be.

He turned to Owen two days after the incident, when he was finally allowed to get out of bed: "I didn't mean to." he simply said.

Owen nodded.

"I mean…" Curt sighed, "I suck. I feel bad about… that."

"You really should."

"But also, I… I don't know, Owen. I feel like Chimera can't be all it's cracked up to be."

"I know, love. You only have to hold on one more day."

Curt's smile turned mischievous: "And what if I didn't?"

Owen cocked his brow at him, with you better not written all over his face: "Curt."

"I might not. But I might."

"Curt, we have nowhere to-"

And then Curt looked at him and he almost flinched. His eyes weren't dead anymore. They were glistening. All it took was one weak " please " from Curt, and his mind was made up.

 

Curt was surprisingly mobile for someone who was recovering from a broken knee, poison and severe strangulation. Although any and all mentions of leaving Chimera were enough to make something wild spark in his eyes. He just couldn't wait.

He could walk alright, thanks to a special knee brace (courtesy of osteopath Richard) that he swore he'd take off as soon as he could, in case it had a tracker in it . Owen almost rolled his eyes at him, but at least the stranger hadn't appeared. No, this sparkly-eyed bastard was all Curt, with his usual amount of manic energy plus about eight hours of sleep for two straight nights and one sugarcube he'd managed to convince Hope to give him. Owen wasn't quite sure how he'd managed to obtain it in the twenty seconds he'd been left alone with her, but he suspected he'd just asked her nicely. Hope seemed to be wary of Curt somewhat, as were the rest of the staff. But they seemed to be willing to listen to him. All except for Henri, who looked ready to murder him anytime he was forced to come within a mile of Curt's room, but Curt didn't seem to care. Good for him.

No, what bothered Owen about the escape plan was that it was way too simple.

Just walk out.

That was it.

That was all there was to it. They had seen exactly two guards in the facility, and never together. There were maybe five nurses around during the night, plus Hope, occasionally. The only problem was that said nurses included both Henri and his friend, the redhead nurse Christine, who were very obviously keeping an eye on them.  

Even so, they weren't there 24/7. Nurses are busy.

So why was it so easy to enter a Chimera facility, even if it was a medical center? That was the problem.

I don't care , Curt had told him.

 

Few Chimera operatives had a night shift. Fewer than those who operated during the day, anyway. The entrance to the hospital building was mostly unguarded on quiet Sunday nights.

And the building slept, shuddering with fragments of quiet conversation. One, in particular, caught their attention as they attempted to sneak out.

"Il délire."

The voice was somewhat familiar to Owen, but not enough to put a face on it.

"Tu te fiches de moi?"

That was Henri.

"Oui, bien sûr je me moque de toi." the girl deadpanned. She had a strange accent when speaking French, one Owen recognized as the typical accent of an American learning to speak the language. Henri's accent was very much French, specifically, probably of the south of France. Owen didn't know his exact accent, though.

"Sois sérieuse!" Henri scolded.

"Désolée."

"Qu'est-ce qu'il dit?"

"Henri-"

"Non, dis-moi."

She answered too quietly for him to hear what she was saying.

A sharp intake of breath. The girl pressed on, and her tone turned urgent: "Ils vont le tuer."

"Ne dis pas ça. Je t'en prie."

"Ils doivent s'en aller. Maintenant."

"Je sais."

"Ça veut dire maintenant , Henri. Immédiatement."

"Je sais!"

The rest of the conversation was too quiet to hear. From a quiet rustle, they could deduce someone had stood up. They hid behind the door as the red-haired girl, Christine, walked out of the empty patient room and into a dark hallway.

They waited until the sound of her footsteps had faded. When Owen looked at Curt, the mischievous spark was back in his eyes, and then the dead-eyed stranger was smiling at him again. Curt stood up and walked into the room without hurry, and Owen wanted to strangle him a second time because what the hell was he doing?

He determined to stay hidden unless necessary.

"Heya." he heard from inside, followed by a cold: "What do you want?" from Henri.

"Nothing, really. I was taking a nice little walk and I noticed you sulking in here."

"Go away."

Henri sounded tired, more than anything, but there was a desperate hint in his voice that Owen knew all too well. And Owen's French may not have been as solid as his German, but he knew enough to know a disturbing conversation when he saw it. And he had a sneaking suspicion that the they Christine spoke of were he and Curt. In essence, he had no idea where Curt was going with this and he wasn't sure he wanted to know.

"I'll go away soon enough." his partner said, "I just had one little medical curiosity to ask you."

"If I answer, will you leave me alone?"

"Sure."

A pause. Then, a long, heavy sigh: "What is it?"

"Does this look heavy enough to knock someone out?"

"W-"

Crash!

The stranger grinned at him, dragging the nurse's unconscious body out of the room.

"To the getaway car!" he smiled.

Chapter Text

"What the actual fuck, Curt?"

"That makes twenty-seven."

"Twenty-se… what?"

"The twenty-seventh time you've said that." Curt grinned, smugly.

"Then maybe I'm not making myself clear enough, so let me reiterate: what the fuck , Curt?"

The stranger groaned: "God, you sound like Cynthia. No wonder she always liked you best."

"What in God's name are you talking about? Because I'm talking about the agent in our boot !!!"

" Trunk , Owen, trunk ." Curt corrected, " Boot is so confusing. He's not a snake."

"No, he's not." Owen agreed, "He is a human person and he's in our boot."

"Look, do you trust me or not?"

Owen couldn't stop himself: "I'm not sure I do."

The stranger shot him a half smile: "Good choice." he said, but there was some disappointment in those lifeless eyes.

"Curt-"

"Questions later. Now turn right."

 

"What was even your plan here?" Owen deadpanned, and his partner glared at him.

"Shut up." he hissed, tightening his grip on Henri's shoulders. The kid tried to headbutt him, but Curt blocked it, "Goddammit-" he gasped, "He's strong- Owen, for fuck's sake, help me out!"

Owen knew better than to argue with him. Still, he felt a considerable pang of guilt when he smashed the butt of his gun into the side of Henri's head. He regretted it even more when the stranger gave a dramatic sigh of relief: "Oof, thanks sugar." he grinned, and Owen felt sick.

Who was the person he was talking to? Perhaps not a stranger anymore, but not Curt.

No, this guy was worse than a stranger, despite the nickname Owen had been giving him. He was a demon. Or whatever the non-supernatural equivalent of a demon was. Either way, there was something in his partner, and it was nasty.

Owen wasn't sure he could trust him as far as he could throw him. But…

"Curt." he called.

"Yeah?"

"Now we're out of there…"

"Yes, and?"

"And I believe you have something to explain."

For the first time that day, Curt went completely silent.

"Curt? You promised."

"I did not." said Curt, "But I'm feeling generous today, so I'll tell you anyway. Just help me tie the guy up."

Owen wasn't sure why he did.

 

They sat in an empty room.

Two chairs, dusty from disuse, facing each other.

A third chair in the next room.

All three occupied.

Curt had been silent for at least five straight minutes, which had to be a record for the day. He was just collecting his thoughts , or so he swore. Owen wasn't quite sure.

Was this a good idea? Had Curt changed his mind about them? Curt knew too much. He knew every part of Owen, and he knew Chimera now. He knew so many things.

Did he hate Owen? It didn't seem like it. But he hadn't kissed him once. Why? Curt was usually the one to beg for cuddles. But he didn't seem touch-starved, he'd given no indication of even desiring them.

"You remember the Russian affair, Owe?"

He almost flinched. He'd completely forgotten Curt was right there.

He nodded. Of course he remembered. The Russian affair. The day Curt had started acting strange. The day he'd shattered his knee.

"What about it?"

"Well…" Curt stirred in his chair, uncomfortably, "I was… I… look, Owen, what is time?"

What is time?

Well, that was about the last thing he expected.

"Uh…"

"You'd think it would be like… a line, right?" Curt continued, without waiting for an answer, "A long line, like a wire. Right? With electricity? But no!!"

Curt started laughing, but there was no joy in it: "No, no, babe, it's not. It's like a whole… network of electricity. The whole fucking energy plant!"

"Curt-"

"I know, I know, off-topic. Sorry. Shut up and listen. Point is… I went back in time."

"Curt… what the…"

"Don't say anything!! Shut up!! Just listen, okay?"

Curt sounded absolutely frantic. The stranger, the demon, and Curt were all swirling together in his eyes, in a manic maelstrom of emotions: "Don't interrupt me. I can prove it. I will prove it, I swear. But listen!"

"Okay-"

" Shhhh !!" Curt placed a finger on his lips, "Not a word, sugar."

Owen made a zipping motion across his mouth.

"Thank you. So anyway, I woke up in that facility. Eight fucking times. But it wasn't the first time I'd been there. Listen! I didn't want to tell you. I thought- when we got out of that facility, I thought it would be over. But no, Owen, the first time is… it's still there."

He hesitated: "That time I lost you twice."

He shut down again. Owen didn't dare speak until he was given permission to do so. Curt was  unstable. He was delirious, and frantic, and so different from how he usually was, and Owen wasn't sure he could trust him like this. But the look in his eyes had the opposite effect. It just made him want to hold Curt tight and kiss his unshed tears away. Because although there were no tears in his eyes just yet, Owen knew that look.

He nodded at Curt to continue.

"I didn't… the first time, I was reckless. I was reckless and you ended up…"

He trailed off. He didn't need to say what happened.

"I thought you were dead." he whispered, "I thought you were dead and the building was falling apart and I… I ran away."

"Curt-"

"I left you there!" Curt yells, "I left you for dead and I spent four fucking years regretting it every single day !! And you know where you were? I'll give you a hint. It's got fire breath and wings and a tail that is a snake."

Owen wasn't quite sure why that last part had been spoken with a Russian accent.

"That's right!" Curt continued, unimpeded, "It's called a Chimera and it is Bad News with a capital B and N, bolded and underlined five fucking times!!"

Owen didn't have time to answer before he continued his tirade: "And I don't know what happened to you in those four years. I didn't have time to ask you. What I do know is that you came back a raging, mass-murdering lunatic with a taste for torture."

A what now?

Owen gaped at the raving maniac that was slowly replacing his partner. What was he saying? What? What ?? He was sure at least one of them was hallucinating.

"And not just random people, oh nonono…" Curt laughed, "Or agents, or criminals, or whatever. Nono, your favorite target were girls between 14 and 24 if I'm not mistaken."

" What ?"

"And it doesn't end there."

"How can it get worse???"

"I wouldn't say worse…" Curt scratched the stubble on his chin, "I'd say fucked up but kinda fair, if that makes sense."

"What is it?"

"Me."

"What?"

"You tortured me."

Owen couldn't process for a moment. Then he shook his head: "Curt, no- you know I'd never- why would I…"

Curt interrupted him: "Of course, you were disguised at the time. But I know it was you."

"How do you know?"

"You revealed yourself a few days later."

" Days later ?" Owen repeated, "Curt, it could've been anyo-"

"The first thing you did was pull my tooth."

Owen didn't answer.

They'd discussed it once, what the worst things that could happen to them would be. Curt had listed a few things, but top of them in the torture department was pulling teeth, followed by…

"Electrocution and strangulation. You hit all the points, in that order. So either it was you, or they got that information out of you." said the stranger, "Take your pick. Either way, you had a hand in it."

Owen was silent.

He didn't know what to say. On one hand, he could feel his heart crack a little more every time Curt insisted that there was something going on at Chimera, every time his eyes shifted to show that little spark of dejected terror, every time he made a frantic gesture to illustrate his point. On the other hand, Curt had been on an unholy cocktail of drugs for days.

"And look- I know, I know Chimera had something to do with it, and the PTSD thing with what's-his-name…"

"Damon."

"Whatever, and the no secrets policy- it just- it's not right, Owen!"

"Curt-"

"Oh, and you wanna know what happened to that kid in my timeline?" Curt's eyes lost their spark again, "You wanna know why I know for sure he's not just been rescued by Chimera? Because in the first timeline, on November 18th, 1958 they find his body on the shore of a river in Michigan. Nothing ever comes up. Mystery unsolved! And guess what? No one cares to solve it, because the only people that make a case for him are his boyfriend and two anonymous tips to the police."

Owen couldn't find an answer. Curt couldn't seem to find words either, for a while. Then he spoke, more quietly this time.

"This is why I made you promise not to join them. Please. Please don't join them." Curt's voice cracked, "I lost you to them, twice. Third time's the charm…" he chuckled bitterly, "And the charm…"

He tapped his forehead twice.

Owen gulped.

If you join them, I'll go mad .

Chapter Text

"Curt…" he started, cautiously, "I'm not sure I understand. This whole… time… travel… thing."

"I explained it."

"I know, love, but I'm not sure I…" he trailed off. I'm not sure I believe you , yes, Owen, no doubt, the best thing to say at that exact moment to a clearly unstable individual. Great job, Owen.

The stranger raised his brow, seemingly unaffected: "I did say I could prove it. Didn't I?"

Owen regained his composure: "So you did."

"During one of the loops…" Curt murmured, "I asked you to tell me a secret. Something you'd never told me. Something you also hadn't and haven't told me in any other loop."

"Yes?"

"You told me the first crime you ever committed was stealing a spinning top." Curt chuckled, almost tenderly. Owen sucked in a sharp breath.

"A red one," he continued, "with little yellow and brown triangles. And you loved it. It broke like a month later, but that was your first crime."

Silence fell.

"That…" Owen whispered, "Is… true. How did you kn-"

"Because you told me!!" Curt's tone turned back to frantic in a split second, "You told me!! And then we were killed. Boom. Or… hiss. They gassed us that time- but that's not the point!"

"Curt-"

"You don't believe me."

"I-"

"You don't believe me and I just sound like a madman, God, what am I doi-"

"Curt!"

Curt went quiet. Owen took the opportunity to take his shaking hand in his: "Curt. Calm down. I didn't say that."

"But I-"

"Count to ten, Curt. Then we can talk."

"But-"

"One…"

Curt sighed: "Two… three… four…"

His breathing began to even out.

"Five… six… seven…"

He gave Owen a shy smile: "Eight… nine… ten."

He squeezed Owen's hand and Owen squeezed it back.

Silence.

"Does this mean you believe me?"

Owen paused.

"I'll do my best to believe everything you say. But first…"

There was a noise from the next room.

"Right." Curt rubbed the bridge of his nose, "I forgot about him."

"What was your plan there?"

"Interrogation, mostly. Gotta make it look good, ya know? And getting him out of Chimera."

"Curt…"

"They can't exactly blame him for being kidnapped, can they?" Curt winked.

The stranger was gone.

 

"What the fuck do you want now?"

To say that Henri sounded pissed would be an understatement. To say he sounded panicked would be the greatest overstatement of the century, though. Really, he mostly sounded annoyed. Like they were bothering him while he was trying to listen to his favourite radio show or something.

It was disturbing.

And sort of made Owen wonder what kind of training he had to be that calm. Then again, if Curt was correct in his assumptions…

"I just wanna chat." shrugged Curt, dragging a chair to sit in front of their captive, "Ya know. Between friends."

"You are just about the farthest thing from a friend I have."

"Too bad, we're friends now."

"That's not how it-"

"So, Henry!!" started Curt, completely ignoring both of them when they tried to correct him, "What's up?"

" What's up is I'm tied to a chair with a maniac trying to start a friendly conversation."

"Harsh, Harry. Harsh."

"That's not my n-"

" So , you're a nurse?" said Curt, and the rising tone in his voice indicated a question.

"I- yes, you know that." he replied, looking rather confused, "What are trying to get at?"

"I'll get there, I'll get there." Curt sighed, "I just needed to ask if you're actually a nurse, like… only that? You seem to have a different kind of training."

Henri didn't answer.

"You know, I'm not into quiet types much." sighed Curt, "You wanna try that again?"

Silence.

"Smart boy. Hey, how come you look less scared than some trained spies I've seen in your predicament?"

Silence.

"You know the right to remain silent doesn't apply in this situation, right?" Curt raised his brow, "I'd like some answers. Maybe I'm asking the wrong questions? What's your surname?"

Silence.

Curt groaned: "Oh, you're impossible. Come on dude, I don't wanna hit a kid. I thought Chimera had a no secrets policy. What happened to that?"

"That only applies within the workplace."

"Oh, he speaks!" Curt clapped his hands twice, more enthusiastically than he probably felt, "And what a lovely voice he has! Wanna tell us anything else?"

Henri laughed bitterly: "Does fuck off count?"

"You know what? Sure. It tells me enough." Curt shrugged, and they both watched the confusion in Henri's eyes become concern.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

Curt leaned back in his chair with a sigh.

"Imma be honest here, kid." he grinned, "I don't really need your surname."

"No shit."

"Hush, hush. What I do need is a confirmation of what I already know."

"Which is?"

Curt jabbed a finger into his chest: "You," he started, then waved both his hands around the room, "and most likely everyone at Chimera, are being blackmailed. I suspect everyone's different. But you, oh man. You should not have gone there with your best friends, buddy."

Henri averted his eyes.

"Look," he said, "if you're just here to tell me what I can tell myself just fine, this is gonna be a very short meeting."

"I'm not." Curt leaned forward, "I'm here because we have something in common."

"Do we?"

"Yes." Curt nodded, "I can see my assumptions were indeed correct, so I think I can assume you're not very fond of Chimera."

"You don't say?"

"Shush. I should tell you that I hate it. Like… really hate it. Like, destroy them kind of hate it."

"Hate it."

"Yes. See, you got some brains under the blond."

Henri just sighed.

"See, me and Owen have a bit of a plan."

That was a lie. They hadn't discussed any plans. But Owen would allow the lie for the time being. Because Curt obviously did have a plan, and plans can be discussed and perfected.

"We want to take down Chimera." Curt explained, "For good. Like, bye bye. Gone. Adiós."

"I think I got that."

"Clever kid. So obviously, the plan would involve taking down Chimera…" he sighed, "...but before that, we wanna make sure all the hostages they're keeping are safe."

Henri's hand twitched. Good sign.

"...which, to be completely honest with you, would involve a whole lot of kidnapping, but hey, it's like… kidnapping with good intentions. Morally sound kidnapping. So, is there anything we should know about that?"

A moment of silence.

"Yes." Henri murmured, "Some agents have trackers in them. I'm pretty sure I don't, but I know Damon does. So does Hope."

"Speaking of her…" Owen intervened, feeling his spine twitch at the mention, "How come she looks so… genuinely loyal?"

Henri gave a bitter smile: "That's because she's not the one being blackmailed. Her girlfriend is. And she has no idea."

"Why hasn't anyone told her?" Curt quirked his brow, "You'd think a hostage would know they're a hostage."

"That's because Camille is a killing machine." Henri sighed, "She's never pissed off the higher-ups. And the one time I- someone tried to subtly hint to Hope that she should get out while she still could, well. She ignored it and they paid for it. There's a reason love is free in Chimera. It's not really free. They can and will use it."

His voice had dropped to little more than a whisper as he went on. By the end, he was picking at a splinter in the wooden chair, completely avoiding both his and Curt's gaze.

Curt wasn't too phased: "Look out for trackers, got it. Any idea where they are?"

Henri flinched a little and his eyes went glassy for a second, and Owen felt a twinge of sympathy. Minor flashback. Nasty.

"The arm." he said, "Either arm. Generally in the forearm. You can feel it under the skin if you pass your hand over it."

"Thank you." Curt clapped his hands as he stood from the chair. His expression turned sympathetic for a moment: "Well… obviously, I can't let you go or it'll look bad, but… you can tell me if the rope's too tight."

"It is." Henri deadpanned.

"Liar liar. I'm not a nurse, but even I can see you've got no rope burn and your circulation is fine." Curt chuckled, before leaning towards him with a more serious tone: "I wouldn't try to get out if I were you. It would just get us both in trouble. Got it?"

The boy nodded slowly.

Curt turned to Owen with a wide grin.

"Alright, sugar." he said, "Let's take down Chimera."

Chapter Text

“So, I don’t… actually have a plan…”

Owen sighed deeply. Of course.

“Let me finish!” Curt protested, “I don’t have a plan, but I have many, many ideas.”

“Yes, love, but we still need a plan.”

“I’m getting there. What we need, first of all, is backup.”

Owen cocked his brow: “Backup from who ? We’re rogues, remember?”

Curt grinned.

 

What were you thinking ??”

Owen almost flinched, no longer used to the high-pitched nightmare that was Barbara Larvernor’s voice when she was angry. Or panicked. It was unclear. Curt didn’t seem as affected.

“You missed me too, Barb.” he smiled.

I- We’ve all been worried sick, Curt! We thought you two were dead!!

“Have they been looking for us?” asked Owen, leaning in so Barb could hear him. She went silent for a while, then made a non-committal noise.

Owen’s face darkened: “They haven’t, have they?”

“I have! ” Barb whined, “ Me, and some others. But the higher-ups…

“I told you.” Owen murmured, earning a harsh glare from his partner.

Curt leaned into the watch again: “We’re alive. And mostly fine. But we’ve got info, and we need help. You still in Boston?”

I’m staying in Ant Arbor. I was… ” she paused, “ I was still looking for you. Where are you?

The two exchanged a look.

“I’ll send you some coordinates.” said Curt, “And you can meet us there.”

There’s a moment of silence on the other end. Barb sighs.

Alright. Be safe, agents .”

The call disconnected. 

“This is a risk.” Owen murmured.

“Eh. She’s trustworthy. Believe me.” 

“It doesn’t matter. This is risky.” he said, biting his lip. 

Curt shook his head with a smile: “This is fine. This is going to be fine. And if it isn’t…”

He trailed off. His eyes became unfocused for a moment, and his mouth hung only slightly open. It was like his consciousness was in a different dimension. Maybe it was. Owen waited, but he didn’t finish. So he squeezed Curt’s hand, watching his eyes finally spark with recognition.

“Wh-?”

“Curt, love?”

“Yeah?”

“You with me?”

Curt blinked a couple times.

"Yes." he concluded.

"Good. Now, Barb won't be here until tomorrow at least."

"Yes." Curt repeated, nodding pensively.

"So what we should do is start to make a plan."

“Yes.” Curt grinned: “Operation Bellerophon is a go.”

 

Curt had not been joking when he'd talked about lots of kidnapping.

They had conflicting ideas on who their first victim should be. Curt said Damon, Owen said Hope. 

"Why her, though? When did you talk to her?" Curt furrowed his brow. 

Owen sighed deeply: "When you were unconscious. And you heard Henri. She's an active hostage and she hasn't been touched yet. She's in more danger."

"I don't think so." Curt shook his head, "Henri also said that her girlfriend is a killing machine who has never given the higher-ups reason to punish her. Whereas Henri has multiple infractions. Maybe they don't know he's been kidnapped."

"They have cameras, Curt."

"Which is another thing we need to worry about."

“Yes, I know. They’re going to have better security.” Owen scratched the beginning of a stubble on his chin, “How are we going to go about that?”

“Raid?”

“Do you have a death wish, Curt?”

“Not at this moment, no.”

Owen sighed wearily. He’d known from the beginning that an attack on Chimera would mean a truly frustrating amount of brainstorming, but he hadn’t anticipated so much kidnapping would be involved. And they still needed more info on their targets.

They came to the same conclusion as usual.

In the words of a gal they'd met in a very improper bar, why not both?  

 

The assumption that there would be stronger security at the medical facility following Henri's disappearance was, surprise surprise, correct. There were at least three or four more guards compared to the last time they’d been there.

But Chimera appeared to be woefully unprepared for the greatest spies in the world, and two of those guards were out like a light before they knew what had hit them. Poor chaps. In addition to the awful lack of personnel, the cameras were so terribly easy to disable.

Essentially, Chimera had failed to account for their skills.

But Curt and Owen had failed to account for their agents.

When they quietly broke into the reception, they found Hope there, as expected, sorting through a pile of papers on her desk. She seemed completely absorbed by her work. Her eyes scanned the papers quickly, and with practiced ease she separated them, putting them in one drawer or the other and keeping a small pile on her desk.

On the monitor in front of her, the footage from the night of their escape played on repeat. 

Occasionally, she looked up and frowned. 

Curt’s steps were feather-light as he snuck up behind her. Owen frowned. He would not have cared for that plan if not for Curt’s promise that it would work.

Hope squealed in surprise when Curt pressed the rag against her face. She tried to elbow him, but the back of her chair stopped her. Not to be deterred, she kicked at her desk. Curt cursed under his breath, dragging the chair back with her to stop her from making too much noise.

Owen felt something die when she stopped moving. 

Curt shoved the rag back in his pocket with a heavy sigh: “She could’ve been trouble. Help me carry her.”

Owen didn’t have time to answer. The familiar click of a gun’s safety coming off froze the blood in his veins and froze Curt where he stood when the barrel of the gun came to rest against his temple.

“Step away from her.” said the woman holding the gun, coldly. 

She met Owen’s eyes and he almost gasped. Hazel, almost golden. A hint of green. Clearly an agent. And the way she glanced at Hope spoke loud and clear.

“Miss Camille, I assume.” he murmured. The woman frowned, and the jagged scar on her pale cheek curved with the curve of her lips. 

“That is correct.” she admitted.

Thank God for the no secrets policy .

“Step away from her.” she repeated, pressing the gun harder against Curt’s temple. Curt didn’t seem nearly as terrified as he should’ve been. He was smiling , and Owen decided then and there that if Camille didn’t kill him, he would. 

Still, Curt took a docile step back. 

And then immediately spun around to punch Camille in the temple.

She blocked it with ease. She threw Curt’s arm to the side and tackled him away from Hope, burying her shoulder in his stomach, which had to hurt. He staggered back, but managed to grab her wrists. When he tried to pin her against the wall, though, she took the opportunity to knee him in the gut a second time and Curt just barely managed to hold on. 

“Shit-” he spat, “Shit- she’s good- Owen!!”

Owen almost rolled his eyes. Until he saw the knife. 

Bang!

Camille dropped the knife and collapsed against the wall.

Owen put the gun away.

Chapter Text

There was very little satisfaction involved in jobs like these. Stealing blueprints, blowing up buildings, infiltrating and obtaining information were all fine. But kidnapping jobs always left a bitter taste in their mouth.

It wasn't about their own personal accomplishments then, it wasn't about how fast or strong they were, it wasn't about anything, really. At the end of the day, there was just a person, usually innocent and terrified, getting hurt, and maybe information, or money, and nothing more.

Still, Curt usually had a sense of smug satisfaction in any job that could get him a grumbled word of approval from Cynthia.

Not that time. For once since they’d arrived, there was no smugness in Curt whatsoever. No gleeful nihilism in the way he spoke, no quips, no grins, no casual flirting.

He was dead silent on the way back, riding in the backseat with Hope. Who had thankfully not been awake when Owen had shot her fiancée. Oh yes, fiancée, as the new ring on her finger attested. Owen wanted to vanish into Mother Earth and let the mushrooms consume him.

“We fucked up.” he murmured.

You fucked up.” Curt corrected, “ I was doing great.”

“She was going to stab you, you ungrateful-”

“Spare me and hope Henri doesn’t break your arm.”

Owen scoffed: “Oh, sod off.”

“You know he probably can.”

“No.”

“KIlljoy.”

Silence fell again.

Owen felt his finger twitch with anger because dammit , could they get one thing right? One ? No, apparently not.

It had been going well. They could've walked out of there with at least one of their targets, if not both, but of course, the knowledge of everyone's shifts was limited and did not include an agent who had just shown up at the facility and generally had little to do with it.

Without considering the fact that Damon seemed to have dropped off the map completely between the time they arrived and the time they left, and that they didn't have time to investigate his disappearance.

"Did you get the tracker yet?" he asked, without taking his eyes off the road.

"Almost there." said Curt. There was a tiny squelch of flesh and out came a little metal capsule, stained with blood.

"Bingo!"

Curt rolled down the car window and let the tracker fall from it, pressing a patch of gauze to Hope's arm with his free hand.

"Good."

"Yeah, good thing it was small. I can't stitch her up in a car."

"I'd still suggest stitches when we get there. Just a couple."

"Fine." Curt huffed, keeping his hands pressed against the cut, "But you're better at stitches than I am."

"I'll do it if I have time."

"If you have time?"

"We are in a world of trouble, Curt!" he exclaimed, swerving maybe a little too suddenly, "We're alone with maybe one ally who is liable to change his mind if he sees we're not succeeding, three powerful agencies on our back, and at least one very angry agent!"

"I told you we should've gone for the doctor."

"I don't want to hear it!"

Curt groaned loudly, but provided no further commentary. He just sort of moped quietly in the backseat for the rest of the way back.

 

"I'm sorry, you did what ?"

Henri sounded even more pissed than the day before.

“We had to run.” Curt shrugged, “Owen injured someone.”

“Well, then…” drawled their captive, taking a long, salty look at Owen. He was still, disturbingly enough, almost unphased. And too sassy for his own good.

“Yes, well, it couldn’t be helped.” he snapped, “Not until Curt learns that getting stabbed is neither normal nor good.”

“Fuck off, Carvour.”

“Yes, I love you too.”

“I can’t begin to tell you how much of a bad idea that was.” mumbled Henri.

“Tough luck, kid.” shrugged Curt.

"And you didn't get Damon."

"We tried!" Curt protested, "Not our fault the kid dropped off the radar as soon as we arrived."

"Honestly, can we blame him?" Owen sighed heavily.

He was met with general sounds of agreement from the other two.

And the sound of a quiet click from outside.

 

When spies hear a noise, their radar goes off blaring like there's a mine right under them. When spies hear a clicking noise, they listen closely to determine what kind of click it is. It could be anything, from heels to the closing of a pocket mirror, from a car door opening to the safety of a gun coming off, or a trap about to be sprung.

This one was familiar.

It was the sound of a car door opening from the inside, not through the usual lock but by picking it, which is admittedly quieter.

All their ears had perked up when they'd heard it.

Curt was the first to grab the gun, though. Hypocrite.

Outside, they found only their car.

And the boot was wide open.

And the door they'd come from (and shut behind them) was open, too.

Owen wasn't sure what to expect when they rushed back inside, guns raised and ready, but whatever it was, it wasn't what he was seeing.

He was trained, from a young age, to expect hatred and violence wherever he turned, for one reason or the other. People hate each other. If it's not because of their appearance, it's because of their language, if it's not their language it's their accent, if it's not their accent it's who they love, if it's not who they love it's their interests, if it's not their interests it's some pet peeve that one person or the other is bound to have against them.

There will always , he'd been taught, be hatred everywhere.

When he heard a noise and ran into a room, he expected someone to be dead, dying, or wishing they were dead.

What he found instead is the tight embrace of two friends who wanted nothing more than each other's safety and happiness.

He didn't know how Damon had managed to evade detection all the way there, but for a second, it almost didn't matter. The tall, timid doctor looked ten years younger in Henri's arms.

The hug lasted little more than a second, but it didn't matter. He'd seen enough of Chimera. He'd seen more than enough (Curt was right) of what they could do to someone.

Curt had other, legitimate concerns: "How'd you get here?" he asked, stupidly.

"He hid in the boot, Curt." Owen murmured, putting his gun back in its holster.

"Wait…" Henri paused, "Wait…"

His eyes widened: "Shit- Damon, you have a tracker!"

Curt hadn't put down his gun yet. At that reminder, he seemed to be reconsidering his decision not to use it. Owen felt his limbs freeze.

And yet, in all the panic, little anxious Damon didn't look phased.

"No." he said, rolling up his left sleeve, "No, I don't."

There was a bandage on his arm and the curved, familiar marks of fingernails digging into the palm of his hand.

Chapter Text

Owen had to admit that he'd never carved a tracker out of his own arm. That being said, he didn't find it any less impressive that the shy, horribly traumatized doctor had managed it. Neither did the other two, apparently, and especially Henri, if his French was any indication. His literal French. And the string of curses he graced his native language with. 

Damon reprimanded him immediately, but Curt left no time for an answer: “Damn!” he laughed, “Maybe this mission wasn’t as much of a failure as we thought.”

“Didn’t Carvour still shoot someone?”

“You’re on thin ice, Henry.”

“Still not my name.”

“Cry me a river and drown in it.”

Owen cleared his throat, successfully interrupting their bickering: “We need to plan this out. Maybe we were a bit too direct the first time. And I’m pretty sure they’re going to have even more security next time.”

“Cool, Owen.” grinned Curt, “Any ideas?”

 

They were still discussing strategy when Hope finally woke up.

The four men froze as she stirred in her chair with a tired little whimper and rubbed her eyes like a child. 

“Hey, you didn’t tie her up.” mumbled Henri, not too seriously, earning a patented Damon Glare and no attention whatsoever from Curt.

“Oh shit.” he murmured, “Hey, Owe, did she see me?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Okay, then everyone play along.”

Curt strolled to where the poor secretary sat, still rubbing the artificial sleep out of her eyes.

Owen, in all honesty, was not sure about his plans. Was it a good idea to base their whole work relationship with Hope on a lie? Probably not. Was he ready to tell her the truth about what had happened? Absolutely not. 

And so, inadvisably, Camille’s injury remained a secret amongst him and Curt.

Hope flinched a bit when she woke up to Curt’s face. She said nothing. Her eyes, though, were screaming to the heavens.

“Hi!” Curt waved awkwardly, “How, uh… how you feeling?”

Her voice was a bit raspy: “Where am I?”

“In a safer place than you were before.”

“That’s not vague.” she whispered, with an utterly terrified grin on her face, which Curt readily matched with one of his signature smiles.

“It’s okay.” Owen reassured, “It’s okay. We’re not going to hurt you, this is a… different story.”

“A different story from what ?” 

“That’s a legitimate question.”

“Shut up, Harriet.” snapped Curt, earning himself a truly venomous glare from the poor nurse, “I know this must be scary, but listen. Listen. Your name is Charity, right?”

“Hope.” everyone else corrected.

“Close enough. So, we’re putting together a team.”

Hope yawned softly.

"Careful, young lady. You will be tested at the end of this." joked Curt. 

She nodded slowly, dizzily, still fighting off of remnants of the chloroform Curt had dosed her with. Maybe a bit too much, Owen thought, glancing at her. Her clothes were not as loose as the first time they’d met, making it a lot more obvious how small she actually was. Her tight curls were pulled back in a braid, leaving her fragile-looking neck exposed. It didn't escape his notice how Damon had also seemed to lock on to that particular detail.

Her skin was immaculate, aside from the bandage on her arm. No discolouration or bruises to be seen on her neck, arms or legs. Damon was looking at her not in envy, but in evident relief.

Curt continued his explanation in the meantime. The more he went on, the more concerned Hope looked. Initially, she looked almost amused, as if she were starting to catch on to a prank. Then, her expression shifted. From amusement, to vague concern, to anxiety, to panic. Curt didn't seem to notice. Everyone else did.

There was a growing anxiety among the group, a sense of terrified anticipation of Hope's inevitable reaction.

It took less than Owen expected. 

"Wait!" she cried, interrupting Curt, "Wait, you mean-"

Her gaze ran to Henri, who nodded almost regretfully: "Yeah, I wasn't kidding when I told you to get out."

She went silent. 

"Oh, God." she murmured, "I'm so sorry, doctor Lee."

"It's fine." answered Damon, way too quickly. A rehearsed, tried and true response. Just one of many things about Chimera employees that rubbed Owen the wrong way.

Good God , he thought, these poor kids .

There were times, on missions and the like, when he happened to find people younger than himself, more naïve, less dangerous, not even remotely prepared for the shitstorm they had found themselves in. Owen knew very well that sometimes, people just got hurt. He knew that it wasn't his fault, technically. But that didn't mean he wouldn't feel guilty about it, because it's in the nature of any decent person to feel guilty for failure, rather than lack of effort, when someone gets hurt. And he liked to think he was a decent person.

Except, well.

He hadn't looked at Camille for too long, but she must've been about the same age as Hope. Could he have done better? Yes, probably.

Should he have? Absolutely.

He was not looking forward to the moment the truth about her resurfaced. He imagined those golden eyes again, this time without their spark. Glazed over and inexpressive. He imagined Hope's eyes, perhaps the warmest he'd ever seen, burn with icy anger.

It was an image branded into his mind, that he would be happy to never let his eyes witness.

There was a solution, of course, to all of his problems concerning the Chimera employees. A mythical solution, one might say.

"So!" Curt almost clapped his hands, but froze halfway after his wandering eyes landed on Damon, "We've got a squad here, and we're ready to fight, am I right? We've got Harry here…"

This time, he received no answer beyond an exasperated sigh.

"...who is a lot stronger than I gave him credit for and, judging by his form, probably took boxing lessons at some point."

"That is correct." whispered Damon.

"Then, we have Damien…"

"It's Damon."

"Close enough. Who is apparently good at chemistry, which is always useful. And uh…"

He kept his arm pointed at Hope, snapping his fingers repeatedly: "Wait, don't tell me. Grace? Chastity? Fortitude? Patience? Uh…"

"Now you're just listing the heavenly virtues." sighed Henri.

"Shut up, Harold. Was it… Hannah?"

"Hope." she thankfully corrected, ending the nightmare that was Curt's terrible memory for names before he could go through the entire baby names catalog.

"Yes, that, thank you." Curt gave her another one of his signature grins, before opening his arms to the small group before him: "Look at us! Two amazing spies. Two marginally talented people. One lovely secretary. We're a dream team, baby!"

Hope twisted her hands in concern.

"What do you mean?" she murmured.

Owen stepped forward: "We mean that this Chimera is about to get a mouthful of lead."

Chapter Text

The first plan was to wait for Barb.

Unfortunately, that would imply either leaving the three Chimera employees home alone, leaving Curt or Owen alone with the Chimera employees (out of the question), giving Barb their location and risking not only whoever was supposed to pick her up but everyone else as well, or bringing everybody along and risking their entire mission.

The first option won by process of elimination, rather than anything else. It required a certain level of trust, but it required significantly less trust than the other options and reduced the risk factor, though admittedly not by much. 

The only one of them who posed a physical risk was Henri, and he honestly seemed to have better things to do. He always gave that impression.

Hope seemed harmless, but Curt and Owen were painfully aware of how little an innocent look means in the spy world.

Damon was a scientist, which posed problems in and of itself, and apparently brave enough to carve a tracker out of his own damn arm, which was unexpected, but he seemed to be utterly incompetent with technology, as he hadn’t been able to disarm the trackers, only leave them behind.

All this to say, they might as well risk it. They may have been outnumbered, but Curt and Owen were by no means outpowered. The notion comforted them slightly as they drove out to pick up Barb. The road stretched before them, quiet and almost friendly, and the sun was warm on Owen’s side. 

Curt was driving, of course. His driving was horrendous, but at least he didn’t accidentally begin to drive on the wrong side of the road when his mind wandered. Had they been in Britain, Owen would have driven, but in America, as a general rule of thumb, he let Curt drive.

Curt glanced at him for a moment: “So, I’ve been thinking-”

“Extraordinary.”

“Shut it, Carvour. This is important.” he glared, “Like I said, I’ve been thinking about that girl you shot.”

Owen thought he could feel his soul leave his body when he sighed: “Curt, not this again-”

“No, no, I’m not here to scold you.” Curt laughed, almost awkwardly, “I promise. No, I was thinking about her and Hope.”

Curt !!”

“Would you let me finish?” 

That time he burst out laughing uncontrollably, his dark eyes flitting all over the place and his cheeks flushing. 

Oh. He’s trying to be sincere. Oh boy.

“What… Okay, I won’t interrupt you again, love. What is it?” he asked, trying his hardest to be sweet. It helped Curt.

Curt tutted something and shook his head.

“It’s stupid…” he mumbled.

“No no no, Curt, you don’t get to weasel your way out of this one. What?”

Silence fell.

It weighed heavy on their heads, for about twenty seconds; long enough to make both of them uncomfortable, but not so long that Owen was willing to intervene. Finally, Curt huffed out a hot breath: “Well, their whole… thing. It got me thinking. You and I, we can’t get married. That’s never been an option for us.”

“No…” murmured Owen. 

“And maybe it never will be. Legally, we can’t be married. But I was just… I was thinking, since when do we follow the law?” 

Something clicked.

“Curt... “ he whispered, “Are you saying-”

“I’m saying…” Curt interrupted him, “That, if I had the option to, I would marry you. So, my question is not will you marry me , because God only knows if that will ever be a thing. But… would you marry me, Owen? If you could?”

The answer came as easy as breathing. 

“Yes.” he laughed, “God, Curt, yes! In a heartbeat!!”

“Good!” snorted Curt, nodding vigorously, “Good, good, I just- I don’t… every time I wake up in this timeline, every day, I’m afraid that I’ll wake up in a world where you’re not there.”

His voice cracked: “And I- I don’t know if that will happen. I really don’t. But, Owen, I never got the chance to ask you this question then. I didn’t think I had as little time as I did. Now I know better. I know that… that this will not last forever, even if I never return to the other timeline again. But, while it does, I just- however many days I have left with you, I want… you know.”

He did know.

“Curt. I want to spend them with you, too.”

Curt nodded through the tears: “Yeah. Yeah, you read my mind, honey.”

“Starting with the married pet names already, are we Curt?”

“When else am I gonna start?” Curt choked back a sob with a laugh, “This is our wedding.”

“Is it?”

“Yeah. When else?”

“Pull over, Curt.”

“Why?”

“Pull over.”

“Alright.” Curt gave him an odd look, but complied anyway. Once the car was parked, he turned to Owen with something akin to fear in his eyes: “What’s this ab-”

He never finished the sentence. Owen sprang from his seat and dragged him back into a kiss, supporting Curt by the waist so as not to jostle his knee.

When he pulled back, Curt was sobbing even more: “What- what the fuck, Carvour?”

“You wanted a wedding.” Owen smiled, running a hand up and down his lover- or, husband’s back: “I figured that it would hardly be a wedding without a kiss. It was a way to seal deals, you know.”

“I know that, you bastard!” cried Curt, punching his shoulder half-heartedly before sinking into his chest: “But then, uh- then, shouldn’t the vows come first?”

“Oh, dear.” murmured Owen, “You’re right, darling. I’ll start.”

He cleared his throat, much to Curt’s amusement: “Curt Mega. Former agent.” he started, putting on his best posh attitude, which made Curt cackle almost maniacally, “I have felt something for you ever since you walked into my mission with that attitude of yours. Granted, at the time, that something was pure contempt.”

“Hey!”

“I believe we used to have a bit of a rivalry, right, love? We kept scores and tallies of the strangest things. Shortest successful rescue mission. Cleanest behavioural record. Amount of enemies who wet their pants. I take no credit for the latter.”

“No regrets.” mumbled Curt.

“But, eventually, we stopped comparing scores and started to add them on to each other instead. A bit like us. It used to be you and me. Slowly, though, that and melted away and it was just… us. And you’ve been a pain in the neck the whole time, which is truly a testament to how much I love you.”

Curt masked a sob with laughter: “You fucker.”

“So, former agent Curt Mega, I suppose what I’m saying is… given that no matter how hard you try to annoy me I still love you more than air, will you stay with me and be my air for the rest of our days?”

“What a stupid question.” Curt mumbled, “ I was the one who proposed three minutes ago. Of course I will.”

“Oh, goody gumdrops.”

“Never say that again.”

“Noted.”

“Okay, my turn.” Curt cleared his throat and sat back, without letting go of Owen’s hand: “Owen fucking Carvour, you limey bastard. What to say?”

“Excellent start, my dear.”

“Thank you. So, you are a pain in the ass and always were and yet, much like you apparently, I just can’t seem to get sick of you. I met you in two timelines and loved both of you until it hurt. But you don’t make it hurt. In fact, I can’t seem to find the energy to kick your ass here, which is an improvement. So, ready to be shackled to me for the rest of our miserable existence and beyond?”

“A… and beyond , dear?”

“If I die first, I will haunt you and, let me make it very clear, I expect the same of any man who would call himself my husband.” declared Curt, “So, if you meet that requirement, by all means. Be my husband.”

“Deal.” smiled Owen, “May I kiss the groom?”

“You may.”

The deal was sealed with a kiss and Barb simply assumed that they looked so giddy at seeing her because she was bringing reinforcements.