Before the two could disentangle themselves from one another, Curt’s watch began beeping.
It was to be expected. Cynthia would want to check in after a mission, of course, especially one that ended with a bomb desecrating the building that they’d been assigned to infiltrate. She did seem to have an acute sense of terrible timing, however, and Curt was beginning to wonder if she was somehow calling at the worst moments on purpose. It seemed a very Cynthia thing to do.
With a groan, Curt pulled away, running a hand through his hair, which Owen had tugged all sorts of out of place moments earlier.
“I have to take this,” Curt said, placing his hand over the watch on his wrist. Owen’s arms were still around his waist. “Cynthia is probably calling to scold me.”
Curt shifted, moving to pull away completely, but Owen jumped back first, looking as if he’d just been shocked. The blissful look he’d worn just moments earlier slipped away as his signature blank expression overtook his features. His shoulders tensed, and Curt shifted his weight into the balls of his feet, subconsciously gearing up for whatever fight Owen seemed poised for. A quick glance around the room told Curt that there wasn’t any immediate threat, however. Still, Owen, who’d been so passionate and open just moments earlier, was quickly becoming unreadable. Owen shook his head, running a hand through his hair frantically.
“I can’t do this,” he mumbled, more to himself than to Curt. He stumbled backwards even further, seemingly trying to distance himself from Curt.
“Wha—but we just—but I—but you…huh?” Curt spluttered out. He felt like he had whiplash. Owen, who’d only seconds ago slammed Curt into the wall and made him promise to stay, was now backpedaling both literally and figuratively. He looked like hell , and Curt took a step towards him, his hand outstretched towards Owen.
“This was a terrible idea.” Owen stood straighter, slipping into his go-to defensive stance. His weight shifted into his back most leg and his hips adjusted to follow. He stilled his fidgeting hands and crossed his arms. Curt halted, letting his hand fall back to his side.
Surely this wasn’t happening. Curt felt like a fish gaping for air. His mouth opened and closed several times over, but he couldn’t seem to find the words to say. He shut his mouth with a click , and his jaw flexed.
“ You kissed me !” Curt protested finally. His mind was spinning at a million miles a minute. He was trying to piece together what had caused this change, what had caused Owen to turn distant and hesitant.
“I shouldn’t have done that.” Owen was shaking his head more vigorously now. He looked pale, sickly, even, and Curt was torn between concern and confusion. This wasn’t the Owen he’d been kissing a moment ago. Now, instead of being imposing and looking as if he wanted to engulf Curt, to slam themselves together until they were conjoined and entangled well past fixing, Owen was hugging his torso, looking very much like he wanted to collapse in on himself, to be as small as possible.
More than anything, though, Curt was focused on the hurt. It was like a bad dream, and Curt desperately wanted to wake up.
“What?” He asked, suddenly filled with self doubt. His self conscious nature was beginning to eat him alive as Owen continued to make faces as if he was disgusted with himself. “Why not?”
Curt wondered for a moment if he was Owen’s first experience when it came to being intimate with a man. Owen certainly hadn’t kissed like it was, but there was arguably little difference in the way one would kiss someone of either gender. Curt couldn’t shake the idea of being Owen’s first dalliance in homosexuality. That would explain why Owen seemed so disgusted with himself all of a sudden, even if, moments earlier, he’d been acting as if he couldn’t breathe without Curt’s lips on his.
Curt found himself feeling offended. Was his kiss that terrible? Was he that repulsive? Had he immediately turned Owen away, turned him straight somehow? His thoughts began to spiral, and he began to tremble ever so slightly.
“I’m going to get you...,” Owen snapped his jaw shit, taking a shaky breath through his nose. “We're going to get ourselves arrested... or killed.”
So, that’s what this was about. Owen was worried about the legal ramifications that would come with a relationship like theirs. Curt shook his head, stepping towards Owen with his hands raised palm-up in an attempt to pacify the situation.
“Owen, it was just a kiss, I—”
That was very much the wrong thing to say.
Owen balked at him, his expression caught between nausea and outright anger.
“Just a—? That’s all it was to you? A kiss?” Owen asked, spurred on more by his anger than his uncertainty. His arms went from hugging his torso to truly crossed, and he straightened his back out to rise to his full height. Now, it was Curt’s turn to backpedal. He felt caught between his own self hate and his rising apathy. He was beginning to shut down his emotions subconsciously, divorcing himself from the situation so as to feel less of the pain.
“Well, no, that’s not what I meant,” Curt said, and an emptiness clawed its way into his stomach and made its home there. He felt cold, lost without Owen’s warmth. He desperately wanted to reach out and pull Owen into a hug, but he didn’t think Owen would let him. They were standing right next to one another, but there was suddenly an insurmountable distance between them.
“Curt, we can’t do this. I can’t do this,” Owen choked on his anger and breathed out his fear. His voice softened to a whisper. Curt couldn’t figure out if he was trying to sway Curt or himself. He continued, “Do you really want to live a lie, pretending to the whole world that you’re someone you’re not?”
Curt couldn’t help but snort.
“We’re spies, Owen. That’s kind of the whole deal,” he snapped. His tone was more condescending than comedic, and he was instantly aware of how bad it sounded. He took a deep breath, trying in vain to calm himself, but the damage was already done. Owen’s once warm eyes had completely hardened over. He’d shut himself down and shut Curt out in the process.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” Owen snarled. Curt couldn’t bring himself to even think that it was an ugly expression because, unfortunately, everything about Owen was so goddamn heartbreakingly beautiful. “This lie is one we can’t even forget around friends, around family, or at home.”
“What if it’s worth it?” Curt asked in a small voice.
You’re worth it, he wanted to add, but he held his tongue. He refused to come on too strong when the tension in their room was already high enough as it was. The last thing he wanted to do was overwhelm Owen even more.
Owen waved him off.
“Like you said,” he said bitterly, “it was just a kiss.”
Oh, Curt wished he could take it back.
Curt’s watch beeped again, drawing the attention of the two back to the original cause of this ridiculous fight. Curt tried to ignore the call, but Owen had already turned back to packing his stuff, effectively giving Curt the cold shoulder.
“You’d better take that call,” Owen said dryly, his voice devoid of all emotion, “wouldn’t want to upset mummy.”
Curt shook his head. He felt as if he might cry.
“That’s not fair.” He hated the way his voice cracked. He hated the way his hands shook. He hated the way Owen was right and wrong and so very, very out of reach again.
“Go do your job Curt. It’s more important,” Owen said in a low, defeated voice.
No it isn’t, Curt wanted to say, not to me. Not if it’s you.
In the end he settled on saying nothing. Instead, he stalked out of the room and into the motel hallway, slamming the door behind him. It was immature, but that didn’t mean that it was any less satisfying. Curt couldn’t remember the last time they’d fought like that. It had been ages ago, way back when they had met in Berlin, when they were both too young and cocky to accept one another’s help.
The rage that had filled Curt in the room was slowly dissipating with each step further and further away from their shared room. Curt took the stairs two at a time.
He felt the anger melting into hurt.
Owen had seemed so ashamed of what they’d done. He’d seemed livid. He seemed to hate that he was in love and, goddamn it, that hurt the most. It made Curt feel deplorable, unlovable. He tried not to think about it too much.
When he reached the ground floor, he slipped out the back door and into the alley between the motel and the neighboring shoppes. He took a deep breath to recenter himself, and he checked the alleyway for eavesdroppers.
Finally, when he was satisfied with his own calmness and with the emptiness of the back alley, he turned his communicator on so as to hear what Cynthia had to say.
“Mega! It’s about fucking time!” Her voice crackled to life from Curt’s speakers.
“ What, Cynthia,” Curt asked, feeling too tired to flinch away from his boss’s challenging tone. There was silence for a moment and, had it not been for the static from the long distance radio in his watch, he would have thought that she’d hung up.
“Jesus, Curt did the bomb mess you up that bad? You sound terrible,” she said finally, but she was more tired than teasing. This was, Curt knew, Cynthia’s way of asking if he was alright. Though, Curt could only really latch onto her exclaiming that he sounded bad. It stung, more than it ought to, but Curt wasn’t in the best headspace at that moment.
“Thanks. That’s exactly what I needed to hear right now,” he said, rolling his eyes. He anxiously looked around immediately after doing so. He didn’t know what he was checking for but, if Cynthia was being serious all those times she talked about having eyes virtually everywhere in the world, then she already knew how many times Curt was being an ass.
“Alright, what the flippity flappity fuck has gotten into you?” She asked, sounding annoyed. Curt envisioned her taking her tea from poor Susan and immediately ushering everyone out of her office so she could spike her drink with whiskey and get to the bottom of the mess that was formerly known as Agent Curt Mega.
“A building fell on me and then I got kicked around by a couple sadists,” Curt said, feeling a pain in his ribs flare up as he rubbed his chest. He ignored it. “I’m not having the best day.”
“So you were there when it went off,” she said slowly, seeking clarity.
“Yeah, didn’t you already know tha—” Curt started, feeling exhausted already. Cynthia cut him off.
“The intel wasn’t solid. I didn’t know for sure,” she paused, and Curt was left alone with just the static coming from his watch for a long moment. “I worried.”
“You worried?” He asked, incredulous. Cynthia wasn’t the type to worry. She was the type to get angry, to get even. She almost always focused on addressing what she could head in, not sitting and stewing over what she couldn’t control.
“Good agents are hard to come by these days,” she clarified, and Curt deflated just a bit. For a moment, he had let himself believe that maybe, just maybe, Cynthia had cared for him outside of his duties. He supposed it made sense that she didn’t. Delicately, she said, “Is Owen…?”
“He’s fine,” Curt said. He tried very hard not to sound short. He really didn’t want to answer any questions about Owen right now, not when things were so confusing and... well, volatile between the two of them.
“Are you?” She asked. “Fine, I mean.” Cynthia was being especially kind. Curt wondered for a moment if she really did have telepathic powers (he wouldn’t put it past her). She always knew how to handle a delicate situation, even if her normal character was that of a mother exhausted with her naughty children.
“Aren’t I always?” Curt said bitterly, thinking of all the times he’d stayed out in the field even though he definitely should have been brought in for health reasons—both physical and mental.
He knew that she would recognize the deflection as what it was. He also knew that she wouldn’t comment.
“Rule number thirty two, Curt.” He could barely hear her; the static was getting louder. Or, maybe he had stopped focusing on her. Curt felt drained.
“Right. Yeah, I’ll remember,” he said. He shook his head, and he tried not to think about what it would be like if everyone knew that he was gay. Would Cynthia still care for his well being or would she use him like some disposable tool? Would his mother be able to look him in the eye? Would Barb even give him the time of day, since she knew that he would never reciprocate her advances?
“I mean it, Curt. Take care of yourself, or I’ll shove my boot up your ass so far that you’ll be tasting leather for a week,” Cynthia said. That passive aggressive—emphasis on aggressive—nature of her comment didn’t make it sound any less genuine. Curt stopped himself, giving pause to wonder if maybe, just maybe, Cynthia cared for him just a little bit after all.
“Understood.” He said, finally.
“You mentioned you were tortured?” Cynthia asked. She didn’t sound concerned, just inquisitive. It wasn’t offensive. Curt knew that was as close as she got to actually sounding like she cared.
“Yeah,” he said, his voice and chest tight.
“Luka, again?” She asked. She sounded as if she was trying to bring him up as delicately as she could. Though he didn’t say it, Curt appreciated the small effort all the same.
“Yeah,” he repeated, a little softer this time.
“Bring his ass down.”
Curt could practically hear her taking a drag from her cigarette and blowing smoke at her communicator. Curt rolled his shoulders back, ignoring the ache in his chest from his ribs. He smiled bitterly to himself, suddenly filled with adrenaline from his need for revenge.
“Don’t worry,” Curt gritted his teeth together. “I’m working on it.”