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Something, Anything, Everything

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Curt awoke on his side in a dark room, his cheek pressed to the cold concrete floor. The first thing he became aware of was the pain erupting along his body, and he groaned. He made a quick mental list of the soreness of his ribs, the stinging of his temple, and the ache in his wrists, which were bound in chains in front of him. He tried to shift, but the chains pulled against his skin uncomfortably, rubbing them red in places that already looked raw.

 

 How long had he been here?

 

How had he gotten here?

 

His eyes followed the chain, which was fed under a small, metal arch that looked to be welded to the floor, effectively pinning his arms out in front of him unless he could manage to wrestle a little slack free. He adjusted so that he was laying on his stomach so that he could better examine the room. His gaze continued up the chain, which was pulled up to the ceiling and held in place by another metal arch. The chain then continued back down to the floor and was attached to a slumped figure several feet away from Curt. 

 

His heart jumped into his throat. 

 

Even in the low lights, with his head still foggy from what he guessed must have been a considerable blow to the temple, he knew it was Owen. He would know Owen even if he was blind and deaf, he reckoned, though he could not tell if that was due to their closeness as friends and partners or caused by his ever growing infatuation with the man. He could hardly disentangle his romantic feelings for Owen from his professional opinion of him anymore.

 

It wasn’t as if that it mattered. Curt was forced to maintain a strictly work based friendship with Owen, lest he risk both of their careers in some misguided attempt at a romantic confession. His love for his partner was illegal and, most likely, entirely unrequited.

 

Despite the ache in his shoulders from the position he was laying in, Curt decided to remain still. He would give Owen as much slack on the chain as he could, so that he would wake up in a position that was a little more comfortable than the one Curt had found himself in.

Then, Curt busied himself with examining the room they were in—there were concrete walls, a concrete floor, and a metal door behind Owen— in an attempt to devise where they were and how they could get out, but his eyes and mind kept wandering back to Owen as more and more time passed. 

 

Owen was curled up on his side, his back to Curt. His clothes were crumpled, and his hair was a mess. He looked like he’d been in a scuffle of sorts, which aligned with Curt’s assumption that they’d been captured on a mission. Neither Curt nor Owen were the type to go down without a fight. Upon closer inspection, Curt could see that something was matted into his hair near his right ear, something Curt assumed was blood. 

 

He took a shaky breath, his observation of Owen turning frantic as he searched for any sign that his partner was still alive. His whole body tensed, and he could not stop the whirlwind of anxious thoughts from plaguing his mind. After a moment of panic, Curt locked his eyes on Owen’s shoulders, which were moving up and down almost imperceptibly.

 

Owen was still breathing.

 

Curt let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he had been holding, his body relaxing, and he let his head rest back on the cold ground to avoid straining his neck too much. He would wait until Owen woke up (and he would wake up, Curt told himself) to make any plan because he didn’t know the extent of his injuries. Other than the smattering of blood that was dried in his hair, Owen had no visible injuries that Curt could see from the angle he was looking from.

 

Curt tried to focus on his memories of what had happened, how they’d ended up like this, but it was like pushing past a haze. He remembered fragments, like shards of shattered glass that he was struggling to piece back together into a cohesive story.

He remembered Cynthia, her expression sour and smoke curling around her lips, saying something about being careful. He remembered Owen’s smile, friendly and warm. They had been in a bar of sorts. Their shoulders had brushed.

Curt shook his head. Latching onto those types of memories, while exhilarating, would do him no good as he struggled to discern what exactly had happened in this specific situation. He could be uselessly gay on his own time, not when Owen was counting on him.

He focused on the memory of Cynthia, trying to recall what she had been scolding him about. Flashes of a compound flooded his mind. He remembered the cold weight of his gun in his hand and the reassuring warmth of Owen beside him, close enough that he could feel Owen’s breaths on the back of his neck. He remembered the bite of something hard and heavy connecting with the side of his head. He remembered nothing else.

 

His head felt heavy from all his effort spent thinking, but he would not even consider letting himself dose off again. He wouldn’t leave Owen to wake up alone, unguarded. The chains prevented Curt from being able to do little else but stare, but he’d writhe and squirm his way over to Owen if necessary, even if that meant breaking every bone in his fingers and wrists in order to slip free of his chains.

 

Curt Mega loved Owen Carvour, that was for certain, and, if nothing else, Curt was extremely loyal to his own. He’d give anything to keep the people he loved safe.

 

What felt like hours but was more than likely only a handful of minutes passed before Owen stirred. He came to with a grunt and a groan, but it might as well have been music to Curt’s ears. Owen sat up, his chains rattling as he did so, giving Curt enough slack on his end to pull back onto his side in a more dignified position than sprawled out on his stomach.

 

“Welcome back to the land of the living,” Curt said, his voice sounding much too relieved to come off as nonchalant, which was what he was aiming to achieve. “You certainly took your time.”

 

Owen turned with a start at Curt’s words, but he moved backwards in the process, pulling the chains enough to yank Curt back down onto his stomach. Owen quickly looked between Curt and his own bindings, his eyes following the chain between them just as Curt’s had only a little while before.

 

Owen cursed under his breath but stood, his face mirroring the look of concern that Curt was giving him. His face was covered in dirt, grime, and blood, but his expression was full of determination. It was an incredibly attractive look, especially when Owen flexed his jaw absentmindedly.

Curt was quickly pulled from his distracted thoughts, however, because, as soon as Owen stood, Curt could see the slight tremor in his leg. 

 

“No, don’t!” Curt blurted. Owen froze, his eyes going wide. Curt took a deep breath and composed himself when he saw Owen’s panicked look. He clarified, “Don’t stand if it hurts you.”

 

Owen shook his head, a small smile on his lips. It was a welcome sight.

 

“I’m fine, Curt,” Owen said in that lovely British accent of his, placing emphasis on his name in just the right way to send shivers down Curt’s spine that he had to work very hard to suppress. “Besides, the pull of the chain was hurting you.”

 

How could he be so damn considerate when he’d only just woken up from unconsciousness?

 

“Thank you,” Curt said, for lack of a better response. He used the extra slack of the chain to rise to his knees, sitting back on his heels. They both settled into as comfortable of a position as they could, given the circumstances, and the silence stretched for a long moment before either of them spoke.

 

It was Owen who finally broke the quiet, his voice strong despite the pain he was clearly in. 

 

“What’s the damage?” He asked. His eyes scanned over Curt with concern.

 

It took Curt the duration of a deep breath to tear his eyes away from those brown eyes he’d come to know so well. They could be hard, could flash dangerously, in every fight they found themselves in, but they always seemed to melt into something akin to warmth when it was just the two of them grabbing a drink or relaxing together after a mission. Curt felt like he was coming home every time he saw Owen’s eyes like that, like he was looking at him right now.

 

“Bruised rib or two, probably not broken, a killer headache that might be a very mild concussion, and some sore shoulders and wrists,” Curt listed off. Owen nodded, shifting his weight again.

 

“Bruised ribs and a potential concussion here, too, and my left knee feels pretty shite.”

 

Curt did not get the opportunity to respond because the door flew open, and three men walked in. 

 

The first two were tall and brutish, both with dark hair and light eyes, and they had very bitter-looking expressions on their faces. Their clothes were dark and functional, almost militant in appearance, which spelled bad news for Curt an Owen. If they’d pissed off and then, subsequently, been captured by the Soviet Military, then they likely would be tortured and interrogated until their hearts gave out. On the bright side, Curt could not see any weapons on the men, nor did he see any holsters or garters on which they might normally carry a gun. They were, as far as Curt could tell, unarmed.

The third man was shorter, more weaselly in appearance, with a very long neck and long hair that had been slicked back. Although his color palette was just as drab and dreary as that of the other two, his clothing was more business casual than special ops. He looked more like an accountant than a threat.

 

Curt and Owen shared a look, both mentally bracing for the interrogation they were about to endure. Neither man was new to being tortured, but that didn’t mean that it was any less taxing. Curt started building up his mental walls, and the way Owen was gritting his teeth told him that he was doing the same. 

 

“Ah, care to join us?” Curt asked, forcing his voice to come out nonchalant and relaxed. Owen settled into his own act of calm, mimicking Curt’s laid back appearance.

 

“If we knew we were going to have company we’d have dressed for the occasion,” Owen added, and Curt snorted. They certainly did look like they’d been through the ringer, what with Owen looking like he’d just crawled out of his own grave and Curt looking... well, he didn’t know how he looked,  but he certainly smelled like sweat, dirt, and disaster.

 

Their words fell on deaf ears. The first two men had closed off expressions and a look of determination on their faces that sent Curt’s skin crawling. The third just looked curious, and perhaps a bit excited.

For a moment, Curt worried that they’d just come to finish the two off. Fortunately, that didn’t add up, as they wouldn’t have gone through all the effort it would have taken to chain them up in the first place if they just planned to whack them as soon as they awoke. The third, more squirrelly looking man stayed back by the now closed door, and he gave a subtle nod to the other two. Curt wondered if that was to designate that he was ready, or if he was the one in charge.

 

The two burly men then stepped closer to Curt and Owen, and Curt had only a second to process the fact that the man coming towards him had a crowbar hidden by his side before said crowbar connected with his ribs. 

 

He let out a gasp of air, his breaths labored as he blinked rapidly to hold back tears that quickly welled up in his eyes. As soon as he had doubled over, something slammed into his back—the man’s foot, he thought. Curt let out a groan, his nonchalance overtaken by the pain blossoming all over his torso.

 

Owen growled, low in his throat, and moved towards Curt a few steps, but he stopped as soon as he saw that he had accidentally pulled on the chain and inadvertently yanked Curt down until his nose was touching the floor. Owen froze, but his expression was tight and his breathing heavy. 

 

The man behind Curt tossed the crowbar to his partner, and Curt almost protested. As long as they were beating him, Owen was safe. Curt would gladly take all of the pain that they could ever inflict upon him if it meant that Owen was spared. 

 

Upon seeing the crowbar switch hands, Owen snarled at the man in front of him. Curt knew that expression well; it was a challenge. 

 

The man slammed the crowbar into the back of Owen’s knees, which caused him to crumple to the ground like a discarded rag doll with a gasp of pain. As Owen went down, the chain jerked Curt forward. He caught himself on his hands, still on his knees with his ass in the air. 

 

The man beside Curt kicked him hard, square in the chest. Curt’s body lifted off the ground slightly from the impact, but the lack of slack from the chain yanked him back down just as quick. He landed on his elbows this time, coughing and spluttering violently. He tasted blood in his mouth.

 

Across the room, Owen was gnashing his teeth and jumping to his feet in an attempt to give Curt a little more room to move and defend himself. Curt was thankful for the effort, but it was a short lived victory. The man behind Owen swung the crowbar once again, this time connecting with the side of his knee. Owen cried out, and Curt moved involuntarily to go to his aid, only to be stopped as the chain yanked him forward again as Owen went down.

 

“Leave. Him. Alone,” Curt coughed out, grinding his teeth together before baring them like some sort of wild animal. His words were still met with silence. 

 

Their torturers were unnervingly silent. There were no laughs or taunts or even questions thrown at them, and Curt was left wondering what exactly they were after. This was cold and calculating, and it frightened him a shade more than normal torture ever had before.

Normally, he could fight back a torturer with his words. A serious question would always be met with a sarcastic and, more often than not, overtly sexual answer, and he would throw the torturer off by maintaining his flirtatious, fuck-it-all attitude. Being frustrating and impossible to crack always made him feel victorious. In this specific situation, where their torturers where silent and efficient, Curt supposed that the true victory would just surviving. 

 

With a grunt, Owen shakily rose to his feet again, still determined to give Curt a fighting chance. Curt locked eyes with Owen and shook his head, trying to communicate that it was not worth it, that he could take it, but Owen was steadfast. It struck Curt that Owen might want to protect him as much as Curt wanted to protect Owen.

 

The thought warmed him somewhere deep in the pit of his stomach, but the feeling was quickly overcome with a sharp cold that stemmed from watching Owen, his brown eyes hard and sharp, take the crowbar to the same knee again. There was an audible crunch, the sound of steel on bone, and then Owen’s scream. 

 

Curt was screaming too, incomprehensible pleas for the men to just tell them what they wanted, to stop it, stop it, stop it. 

 

The men did not stop, however.

 

The one behind Curt grabbed him by the hair and, taking advantage of the newfound slack in the chain that Curt didn’t understand how he had, yanked him back up to his knees. The hand holding his head up did not move, and the man’s second hand curled around Curt’s throat. It was a dangerous position to be in because, when Curt shook his head to try and get him off, the man slid his whole arm around Curt’s neck, effectively pinning him with an arm choking him and restricting his air flow. The pressure on his windpipe was not extreme but rather enough to be uncomfortable unless he stayed absolutely still. The man tangled his hand in Curt’s hair and yanked his head around until he was facing Owen again.

 

He wondered what the man was doing, what he wanted Curt to see, until his eyes shot back towards Owen. 

 

The man who had previously been beside Owen was now in front of him, his crowbar long since disregarded. He had the chain in his hands and was pulling on it hard, leaving Owen dangling from the ceiling with his arms above him and his toes barely ghosting the ground. 

 

That explained why there was enough slack for Curt to be yanked back into his current position. 

 

Owen was blinking in and out of consciousness, his expression melting from determined to exhausted. The man holding the chain was pummeling him with random kicks, and Owen was starting to slump over more and more, no longer reacting as much to the assault. 

 

Curt on the other hand was writhing to get out of the grip of the man behind him, no matter how it pained him, desperate to get to Owen.

 

“Stop it, you’re killing him!” He shouted, voice rough from the slight but consistent lack of oxygen he was experiencing. That only seemed to encourage the man to continue at a quicker pace, slamming his foot into Owen’s stomach, Owen’s hips, Owen’s knees. 

 

Owen looked up at him, his expression somewhere between exhaustion and apathy. He tried to smile at Curt in what he only assumed was an act meant to calm him, but the way his lips curled and the grin twisted in pain as another blow struck his torso just made Curt all the more panicked. Owen’s eyes met his, and they were warm, so very warm, no longer filled with the dangerous glint Curt was used to on these missions. 

 

And then Owen passed out completely, his body swinging limply from the chain. 

 

Curt was screaming again, trying in vain to tear himself away from the man holding him back. He felt something warm dripping down his wrists but didn’t dare look, already aware of the fact that he’d likely rubbed them to the point of drawing blood. He was still screaming when a quiet voice spoke up, and he wouldn’t have even noticed it if not for the commanding tone that seemed to echo around the room despite its low volume.

 

“That’s enough. I have what I need.”

 

The voice had come from the third man, the one Curt had long since forgotten about. He was standing by the door, observing the situation with dark eyes. Curt didn’t know what he meant and, frankly, didn’t care because, at his words, the man behind him let go, allowing Curt to scramble to give Owen as much slack as possible. The man holding the chain released it, and Curt braced himself for the pull of the chain as Owen went down, crumpling into a ball.

 

Curt barely noticed the men leaving. His eyes were locked on Owen. 

 

Owen was the only thing that mattered. 

Chapter Text

It took what Curt guessed was close to half an hour for Owen to come to again, although it was impossible to make an inference about time without his watch or any window to see the sky. 

 

When Owen finally came around, he awoke with a spluttering, wet cough, and Curt breathed a sigh of relief as soon as he heard him. He hadn’t been sure where some of the blood on Owen’s body was coming for, and that made him uncertain about Owen’s chances of waking up. Curt moved as close to Owen as his chains would allow, trying desperately to offer comfort in any way he could.

 

“You good, O?” Curt asked, his voice soft. Owen rolled over with a groan, his eyes shut tight. 

 

“I would kill for an Aspirin right now,” Owen muttered, and Curt couldn’t help but laugh. It was a barking, halting laugh, but it was a laugh all the same, one from deep within Curt’s chest. Leave it to Owen to know exactly what to say in any situation to diffuse the tension.

 

Before long, the smile on Curt’s face dissipated into a look of concern and confusion as he began replaying the earlier events in his head. He saw Owen, his face set in hard lines of determination, as he took hit after hit, the brunt of the onslaught, and still kept rising to his feet. Curt knew that he wasn’t worth Owen dying over, but apparently Owen had seen it differently. 

 

“Why’d you do that?” 

 

Owen tried to sit up but seemed to think better about it as soon as he lifted his head. He began grimacing from the effort, and his head dropped back down to the ground, And Curt could hear the dull thud of his head connecting with the concrete.

 

“Do what?”

 

Curt would have rolled his eyes if he wasn’t so concerned for Owen. He was clearly knackered and in a lot of pain, and Curt couldn’t even reach out to him to offer him comfort due to the state of their restraints, let alone administer any for of medical aid that Owen clearly needed.

 

“You kept getting up,” Curt said, his voice so quiet it could have been a whisper. Owen shrugged off his comment, but he didn’t move to meet Curt’s gaze.

 

“I had to give you the chance to fight back,” Owen said, matter-of-factly, as if that was a suitable enough response. Curt shook his head, staring at Owen with a pointed look.

 

“And you risked your own life to do it,” Curt said, his voice sharp and loud. He quickly took a deep breath to calm himself, before trying to phrase his concern a little more eloquently. “I could’ve taken it, O.” 

 

Owen closed his eyes for a long moment, then rolled over onto his side to meet Curt’s eyes for the first time since he’d awoken.

 

“You would’ve done the same,” he said, in a tone that signaled that it was the end of the conversation. Luckily, Curt was never one to let a conversation die unless he couldn’t actively help it. 

 

“You took a crow bar to the fucking knee for me,” Curt pressed. Owen sighed, letting his head fall back down until it connected with the floor for the second time in as many minutes. He looked weak and pitiful, and Curt began to feel bad about pushing the matter. 

 

“Look,” Owen said, turning his gaze away from Curt, as if he were embarrassed, “I did what I had to do to keep you out of harm's way, and I’d do it again if it came to it.”

 

“Owen, please,” Curt said, his voice softening. “Whatever they plan to do with us next, let me take it. I can take it.”

 

Owen laughed at that, and Curt felt momentarily offended. His offense melted into relief, however, as the sound of Owen laughing filled the room. It was a breath of fresh air, and Curt could listen to that sound all day if Owen would let him. Especially with the situation they were in, it was nice to hear him react in such a way. It made it all feel a little less horrible. It made the situation a little brighter.

 

“I’m sorry, Curt, you definitely could take it. That’s not what I’m laughing at,” Owen said finally, slowly pushing himself into a seated position and giving Curt more slack to sit up as well, even though his wrists were tugged out in front of him nearly to the floor still. “It’s just that, as long as I’m alive, you won’t have to take it.”

 

Curt scoffed.

 

“I’m a spy, same as you, O,” he said, shrugging his shoulders indignantly. “And as long as I’m alive, I’m going to do my best to protect you .”

 

Something about what he said must have caught Owen off guard. Curt couldn’t imagine how; it wasn’t as if he’d not been explicit in his devotion to Owen and his relationship… friendship? Whatever it was, Curt had always been focused on making sure that Owen knew that Curt would always have his back, that he would never lie to him unless ordered to, that he would never leave Owen to suffer alone. 

 

Owen shook his head, a small smile breaking across his face.

 

“You’re going to be the death of me, Curt Mega.”

 

His own name shouldn’t have such a pronounced effect on him but, as soon as Owen said Curt’s full name, Curt was a mess. He couldn’t even begin to formulate a complete or intelligent response.

 

“Never,” Curt finally choked out, his voice sounding small even to him. If Owen noticed, he said nothing. Instead, he shook his head again, and he smiled a little wider.

 

They sat in silence for several minutes. It was a comfortable silence; they’d sat like this many times before. Neither spoke, and neither felt awkward. They just took the time to listen to the other’s breathing, to exist in the same space without needing to fill the emptiness. It was calming. It was grounding. 

 

Curt sighed, rolling his neck out until there was an audible pop.

 

“Well, that sounded,” Owen paused, grimacing, before finally settling on, “terrible.”

 

Curt laughed. Owen always hated it whenever Curt popped his neck, his fingers, of any of his joints really. He always said the sounds grossed him out. It was something Curt teased him about often.

 

“Felt good,” Curt said, trying to move his shoulders up and down to stretch them as best as he could. “I’m just stretching.”

 

Owen watched him continue to try and stretch to the best of his ability with the chains in his way. He had eyes that were trained to observe, to never miss a thing, and Curt wondered if he noticed the blush rising to his face. Curt certainly noticed, what with the rush of heat that flooded his cheeks and lit his face on fire beneath his skin.

 

“Stretching?” Owen asked in a teasing tone. “What for?”

 

“Oh, you know,” Curt played along, enjoying the easy back and forth of the conversation. It felt normal. It felt natural. “I’m stretching to get ready for when the jazz band gets here, really kicks off our night, ya know.” 

 

Owen shook his head, laughing despite how stupid Curt’s poor attempt at a joke was. Curt smiled; Owen always laughed at his jokes, no matter how exceptionally awful they were, and it certainly boosted the ego a little bit. 

 

“I’d offer to dance with you but…” Owen trailed off, lifting up his bound arms. Curt snorted, rolling his eyes, but his mind wandered somewhere less pleasant soon after. Owen had rattled his chained wrists like they were his only excuse, as if his knee wasn’t shattered, as if they weren’t in a Russian compound filled with torturous psychopaths, as if the very idea of dancing with a man didn’t carry with it very real societal (and legal) consequences. Curt’s grin dropped for just a moment, but he rebuilt his mental walls just as quick. 

 

If Owen saw the slip in Curt’s expression, he didn’t say.

 

“Remember that bar back in New York, what, two, three years again, now?” Owen continued, not really looking for an answer. Curt hummed in response, and that must have been good enough for Owen to move on with his point. “They had that singer with the very pretty voice.”

 

Curt closed his eyes. He remembered that night well. It was the first night he’d really seen Owen without the pressures of a mission weighing on him. They’d gone to get drinks to celebrate after a Soviet spy had been apprehended with blueprints to a weapons facility in Ireland. They’d both swayed to the music being played by a small Jazz band, already two or three drinks into the night, when Curt had turned around to say something to Owen and realized how gorgeous the other man truly was. 

 

He had looked over his shoulder and froze, mouth agape, at the sight of Owen without his mental walls up, his face and posture relaxed and comfortable. When he had seen Owen’s eyes like that, almost golden brown in the low lights, he was momentarily sobered. He had wanted so badly to reach out and take his hand, to pull him in and to dance the night away in his arms.

 

He hadn’t.

 

“Yeah, I remember,” Curt whispered after a prolonged silence. Owen nodded, his smile softer as he reminisced.

 

“What song were they singing?”

 

It was an innocent enough question, but it made Curt’s heart beat a little faster. He took a deep breath in, trying to act like he was struggling to remember, like it wasn’t a memory he relived in his mind often.

 

“Bye Bye, Blackbird,” he said finally, the words barely more than a whisper. 

 

Owen nodded sagely, as if Curt had said something profound. He said his next words to the tune Curt still heard in his dreams, and Owen was looking up at the ceiling and closing his eyes.

 

“Here we go, singing low,” Owen half hummed and half whispered. Curt couldn’t tear his eyes away for a moment. “Bye bye, Blackbird.”

 

With a sigh, Curt closed his eyes as well, and he let Owen’s soft humming wash over him. 

Chapter Text

Their captors did not return until the following day.

 

By then, both Curt and Owen’s stomachs had begun to protest loudly about being denied food. Neither man was overly pressed about the lack of meals, as it wasn’t anything that they hadn’t endured before both in training and during other missions, although it was the start of what Curt called the separation period. 

 

Spies, at least the British and American ones, were trained to withstand the most brutal of torture to prevent information leaks. Both countries’ espionage academies taught about the moment where the body would begin to betray the mind, the moment where the spy had to make an active decision to ignore all the natural instincts in their being. That description was, of course, much too long to recall, so Curt had given it an unofficial name. 

 

Curt was well versed in the art of separating what he was thinking from what his body wanted him to do. He knew how to shut down that small voice in the back of his head that screamed at him to fight or flee or do whatever else he needed to do in the name of self preservation.

 

In fact, Curt had often applied that very method to his relationship with Owen.

 

When his fingers twitched, wanting nothing more than to take Owen’s hand his own, Curt locked it down. When his feet subconsciously carried him closer into Owen’s personal space, if just to feel the warmth he exuded, Curt locked it down. When his breath hitched because Owen had to show up to a mission in formal dress and looked too damn fine, Curt locked it down. 

 

He locked it down, down, down. He shut that part of him out. 

He would do the same for missions. Lock it down, shut it out, survive until tomorrow. He divorced himself from his emotions, knowing that he could survive this if he really tried. He and Owen would get through this second round of torture, together.

 

Always together.

 

The same three men returned while both Curt and Owen were, thankfully, awake and on guard (they had taken turns keeping watch while the other slept the night before, using the light of the moon flittering in through a crack in the corner of their cell as a timekeeper). It was still rather jarring, however, to have a door suddenly thrown open so quickly that it slammed against the wall, and Curt and Owen both jumped at the men’s arrival. 

 

This time, instead of holding back, the one that had stayed by the door the day before strode forward like a man on a mission, even as his posture remained relaxed and casual.

 

He stepped right in between Owen and Curt, both of who were sitting on the ground and staring at him, waiting. His eyes lingered on Curt, and a small, scrutinizing expression clouded his face before he smiled, slow and snake like. 

 

Curt did not care for that shit at all.

 

The man turned to look at his two cronies and jerked his head to signal them to take action. Neither Curt nor Owen said anything; instead, the watched with their jaws set and their eyes narrowed. The two quickly crossed the room and descended upon Curt. Owen broke his silence then to tell them to leave Curt alone, but his shout quickly turned into a cry of pain as they grabbed Curt’s arms and yanked him back as far as the chain would allow, which resulted in Owen being pulled up towards the ceiling. 

 

Curt felt his heart stop at the sight of Owen dangling, his toes barely touching the ground, with a grimace spelled out across his face. He opened his mouth to protest but was immediately struck over the head by something hard and blunt. He collapsed into his captors arms, too dazed to do anything but take in rasping breaths for a handful of moments. Blinking the black spots from his vision, Curt tried to focus back in on what was happening to Owen.

 

The man in charge circled Owen, observing. He didn’t touch him; he didn’t speak. Curt could only compare it in his mind to the way he’d seen men in those less than savory clubs throughout Europe circle the young patrons available to keep them company that night. It made his blood boil. Owen was no ten-dollar hooker for the man to assess, to scrutinize. He was Owen fucking Carvour, and that man should pay him the respect his name demanded. 

 

Curt snarled despite himself, his eyes locked on the man. His head was still foggy from the earlier assault, but the fuzz in his head was quickly being replaced by blinding rage. 

 

Slowly, the man crossed behind Owen and reached out, running a finger along the back of his shoulders. Curt saw Owen work to suppress a shudder, his lip curling in disgust at the contact. 

 

“Anatoly,” the man said, stepping back to look at one of the men holding Curt back. “Please help our friend remove his coat. It’s about to be much too warm in here for it.”

 

Curt didn’t like the sound of any of that, though he only understood half of what the man meant. Curt really hated not knowing, especially when it came to Owen’s safety.

 

One of the men—Anatoly, Curt supposed—released Curt’s arm, leaving only one man holding him back. Curt knew he should use that to his advantage, but he was still having trouble blinking away the darkness creeping in at the edges of his vision. He was disoriented and dazed; he wouldn’t be able to fight even the one man off.

 

Anatoly, a small knife in hand, stepped forward towards Owen, whose face remained neutral. It was an impressive sight, Curt thought, to see Owen so outwardly unperturbed when looking danger in the eye. That look his something else, though, something mischievous and bold, and only Curt knew exactly what Owen was about to do. 

 

As soon as Anatoly was within reach, Owen gripped the bindings on his wrist and lifted his legs up. He wrapped them around a momentarily stunned Anatoly’s waist and then twisted his hips, which, in turn, yanked Anatoly off center and sent him sprawling to the ground. 

 

Despite himself, Curt snorted. 

 

Owen gave him a dashing smile, clearly pleased with himself, but he was knackered from the effort it had taken to push through the pain in his leg and arms in order to pull off that move. Curt immediately felt his amusement turn to concern, and he writhed against the man holding him back for a moment, his head starting to clear.

 

The shorter, rat-like man who seemed to be running this show tsked, shaking his head. 

 

“Now, now, Mr. Carvour,” he said, as Anatoly scrambled to his feet beside him with a snarl. “You must learn to play nice if we are to be friends.”


They knew their names. How the hell had they found out their names? 

 

“I’ll play…. play nice when you play….  dead,” Owen said between ragged breaths, and his teeth were grinding together. 

 

The man had the audacity to throw his head back and laugh at that, before gesturing to Anatoly to continue with what he had originally stepped forward to do.

 

Anatoly, carefully rounding Owen so as to avoid getting locked in his legs and thrown to the ground again, flicked his knife open and began cutting at Owen’s jacket. Owen struggled against him, but he was barely able to keep the tips of his toes on the ground, let alone get any traction to get away from him.

 

Curt pulled against the arms holding him back, suddenly thinking of a hundred different ways this could go south. 

 

Once the jacket was torn away from Owen and reduced to scrap fabric, Anatoly stepped back towards Curt. The man in charge stopped him and pointed towards the door. Anatoly obliged, moving to guard the door, without so much as a whisper. It spoke volumes to the dedication of these men to their leader, and that scared Curt a little bit. These men weren’t sloppy, and they certainly weren’t amateurs. 

 

The man walked back up beside a quickly tiring Owen. 

 

“You’re quite a fighter, Mr. Carvour,” he said, returning to circling Owen just as he had before. “Let’s see if we can remedy that, hm?”

 

What followed was something Curt knew he’d see for years, over and over again, in his worst nightmares.

 

The man grabbed Owen by the chin, pulling him towards him until they were nearly nose to nose. When Owen jerked back, the man only gripped harder, turning Owen’s head from side to side as he examined him further. 

 

He glanced over at where Curt was being held back and smiled. Curt snarled at him, well aware of the fact that he probably looked like something feral. It didn’t matter; he’d tear these men apart like a wild beast at the first opportunity if they hurt Owen again.

 

“At least take me to dinner first,” Owen grunted out, a sarcastic smile sliding across his face. 

 

The man’s eyes snapped back to Owen. He pulled his hand away in mock shock, instead letting it fly to his chest as he let his mouth gape open for dramatic effect. 

 

“Mr. Carvour,” the man admonished, but the teasing was humourless. He was toying with Owen, Curt knew, letting Owen lead for a bit so that he could rush back in and crush the illusion that Owen had any control over the situation.

 

“I don’t even know your name, love,” Owen continued, but the term of endearment dripped from his lips like something poisonous. For a breath, Curt was almost afraid of this side of Owen, this act full of acid. He’d nearly forgotten that Owen’s best weapon—often assumed to be his handgun, with which he had wicked, deadly aim—was truly himself. Owen had a mouth full of venom and a bullet for a tongue, and he was always more than willing to fire off quick and clever comebacks when necessary. 

 

God, it was usually that quick banter that really gave Curt a high, but right now he just felt sick to his stomach. 

 

“Luka, darling,” the man said. “Call me Luka.”

 

And then he punched Owen in the face. 

 

Owen’s head snapped back, his nose gushing blood, and a dazed look quickly swallowed the poisonous, flirty expression he’d worn so confidently only a moment before. 

 

“Leave him alone!” Curt shouted, finally wriggling free of the man’s arms that had previously pinned him back. He didn’t get very far before something was slammed over the back of his head again. He dropped to his stomach with a groan, but he kept his eyes fixed on Owen in a hopeless attempt to keep reaching for him.

 

Something heavy settled into the small of his back, pinning him to the ground and forcing him to strain his neck to look up at what was happening to Owen. Curt quickly realized that the man behind him must be kneeling with one knee on his back, forcing him down.

 

Owen’s eyes darkened at the sight, and Curt was once again struck by how handsomely intimidating his partner was. It was both horrifying and vaguely exhilarating.

 

Luka said nothing, but he rounded to the front of Owen, partially blocking Curt’s view of what was going on. From what Curt could see, Luka gripped Owen by the jaw once more, turning his head side to side and tutting as he looked over Owen’s bloodied face. Curt wondered what he was looking for, wondered what he’d find.

 

For a moment, Owen let it happen, but then he took a deep breath and spat in Luka’s face. 

 

Luka snapped his hand away from Owen and wiped at his face immediately. Anatoly moved away from the door about half a step, about to come to his boss’ aid, but Luka raised a hand to stop him.

 

“No need to intervene, my friend,” he said, his voice deeper and his tone darkening. “Mr. Carvour and I are just getting started.”

 

Anatoly gave a nasty grin and stepped back.

 

Luka began running his hands along Owen’s shoulders, along his hips, along his waist, his chest, and his thighs. He seemed to play it off as if he was looking for something, but Curt knew that they’d searched them both before they had chained them up, so there was something more to this routine.

 

If the goal was to make them uncomfortable, it was working. Owen was gritting his teeth and looking away, not wanting to watch as Luka ran his hands along his body somewhat hungrily. The search lingered for a moment while Luka’s hands were on his hips, and Curt felt his stomach drop out. 

 

Please don’t let it be what he feared was going to happen. Not to Owen—oh, god—not to his Owen.

 

Curt couldn’t help the growl from leaving his throat. It was subconscious, fueled by his deep desire to protect Owen at all costs, especially from psychopaths like Luka. 

 

“What do you people want?” Curt forced the words out of his mouth, ignoring the tension that his voice carried and the tightness in his chest.

 

Luka said nothing. He, instead, rounded on Owen once again, now standing behind him, and smiled. He hummed a little bit as he ran his finger down Owen’s spine. Owen jerked away, his teeth bared. 

 

Curt and Owen locked eyes, and there was a silent plea from Owen, one Curt knew well. He was asking for reassurance, for the promise that he wouldn’t endure this alone. Curt tried to get Owen to understand just through his facial expression—he was here, and he would witness.

 

Owen was not alone.

 

Curt grimaced as Luka continued to manhandle Owen into a better position for whatever he had planned. He tangled his fingers in Owen’s hair and yanked backwards, forcing Owen to look up and away from Curt. He hissed in pain, but he didn’t have the strength to wrestle himself away from Luka’s grip.

 

He tried to dig his heels into the ground, to tiptoe forward, but Luka gripped the back of his shirt and kept him steady in the same position. 

 

Curt swallowed, a million protests rising up in his throat but none escaping his lips just yet. He told himself that it would all be over soon, that they’d get bored and switch to torturing him instead so that Owen could have a rest.

 

Luka did not stop.

 

He withdrew a lighter and a cigarette from his pocket, and Curt’s heart sank to his stomach. He started bucking his hips, ignoring the strange feeling in his gut that told him he probably looked ridiculous, in an attempt to throw off the man kneeling on him. His efforts didn’t succeed, but they did warn Owen that something was about to happen.

 

Owen took a deep breath, and his eyes closed. 

 

There was the click of the lighter, and then the cigarette was lit. Luka took a long drag from it, before leaning into Owen’s back so that he could rest his chin on Owen’s shoulder and blow smoke at his face. Owen twitched away, but he stayed very still otherwise, already preparing himself for the style of abuse he knew he was about to receive. 

 

Luka took his time selecting where he was going to burn Owen. He let his fingers trail along Owen’s back, before lifting his t-shirt, reaching around, and pressing the cigarette butt into the v of Owen’s hips. 

 

Owen hissed at the contact, but he didn’t seem overwhelmingly in pain. Luka pressed the cigarette into his skin a few more times in the same vicinity, but he seemed to quickly realize that it would take more than a few burns to break Owen. 

 

He took the lighter and raised it to Owen’s shirt, and he let the material catch fire. The flame grew slowly, but it engulfed Owen’s entire left side soon enough. 

 

Owen was screaming now, and Curt choked back the sob that rose in his chest at the sight before him. It was gruesome and horrible. 

 

“Stop, please,” Curt pleaded, his voice more panicked now, no longer carrying with it the signature Mega snark. “I’ll tell you whatever you want to know, just don’t do that to him.”

 

Luka stared at Curt but ignored him. He let the flame grown until it had burned half of Owen’s torso, before using the spare scraps of Owen’s jacket that was now in ruins on the ground to smack the fire until it was extinguished. Owen cried out with every blow, and Curt could see the burns on his skin where the shirt had completely burned away. Owen drooped, hanging from the chains with barely enough strength to whimper.

 

“Oh, no, Mr. Mega,” Luka said finally, his eyes sparkling with something dark and dangerous as he moved away from Owen, “you have it all wrong my friend.”

 

As he stepped towards Curt, he nodded at the man holding him down, and Curt felt the weight lift off of his back. He pushed himself onto his hands, instinctively moving to put distance between himself and Luka. 

 

Luka knelt beside Curt, stomping the toe of his boot down to pull the chain down so that Curt would be jerked back down to the floor in a very undignified position.

 

“I do not want any information out of you,” he continued, a smile growing across his face. Curt imagined how it would feel to knock out a few of his teeth. “I want to learn how to break you.”

Chapter Text

Owen did not wake up for a long time. 

 

Curt was laying on his stomach again, watching him with eyes that were painfully dry (he’d cried himself out after the first hour and by now they were well into hour four or five), waiting for Owen to return to him. This was not the longest span of time spent waiting for an unconscious Owen to wake up that Curt had ever endured, but it was the first time that he was unable to offer any physical comfort or first aide to Owen. Usually, Curt would be available to patch him up before he awoke, to grip his shoulder or hand when he finally came to so that Owen would know that he was not alone, that he was safe. The most Curt could do now was stare and hope that Owen’s wounds weren’t life threatening.

 

That feeling of helplessness wedged itself like a knife in his gut.

 

While Owen remained unconscious, Curt wracked his brain for the memories of why they were here. It was slowly coming back to him, with time—flashes of memories that he had begun to piece together. It had been a routine mission, for the most part, something about going undercover in Russia. Curt remembered the warmth he’d felt in his chest when he had learned that he would be partnering with Owen once again. He also remembered a sketchy motel room, one they’d shared for the night before they infiltrated this compound. Owen had offered to take the couch because there had only been one bed.

 

He remembered arriving at the compound. He remembered waking up in chains. He remembered nothing in between.

 

The sound of Owen whimpering immediately pulled Curt out of his hazy trip down memory lane. It was a pitiful noise, but it at least meant that Owen was awake. Owen was breathing heavily with his eyes screwed shut, and Curt could see him shaking. 

 

“I’m here,” Curt said, his voice surprisingly strong. Owen turned his head towards Curt’s voice, but he didn’t open his eyes. Curt choked back the lump in his throat. “I’m here, Owen. You’re not alone.”

 

Curt knew that it was a weak attempt at comfort, but it was the best he could do considering the current situation. He watched Owen press his cheek into the ground, groaning, before slowly opening his eyes. His eyes immediately sought out Curt’s, and there was a helplessness there that shook Curt to his core. He’d never seen Owen this roughed up or this vulnerable. 

 

It made his blood run cold.

 

“It hurts,” Owen said simply, and Curt felt his heart shatter. He longed to reach out to touch Owen, to offer him physical comfort, to hold him tight to prevent the monsters of the world from ever harming him again.

 

Curt couldn’t respond for several long moments because his breath had hitched in his throat.

 

“What can I do?” He finally asked. He kept his eyes on Owen, even as he felt the tug to look down at Owen’s ravaged side. 

 

Owen shook his head, but it was a slow and gentle movement. Curt guessed that even a movement as slight as that was hurting him at this point. 

 

The fact that Curt had come out of this situation with nothing more than a relatively minor concussion and a few bruises left him feeling guilty. It wasn’t that he wished for pain, per se, but more that he wished that Owen wouldn’t have been the one to have to endure the brutality while he came away unscathed. It didn’t feel right to see Owen in so much pain while he was left barely battered at all. He wished so much that he could take Owen’s pain unto himself.

 

“Promise me you’ll stay.”

 

Curt laughed softly, but he couldn’t bring himself to put any real mirth behind it after hearing how broken Owen sounded.

 

“I’m not going anywhere,” Curt said, his voice still quiet but filled with forced humor, and he shook his hands so as to rattle the chains that bound him to the ground for emphasis.

 

That must have been the wrong response, however, because Owen looked close to crying. Curt immediately regretted his words, and his fake smile dropped.

 

“No,” Owen said, his voice cracking with barely contained emotion. “Promise me you’ll stay with me.”

 

“I’m not going anywhere, O,” Curt said. “I promise I’ll stay with you.”

 

Owen closed his eyes at his response, seemingly put at ease by Curt’s words. The promise wasn’t hollow, but it was confused. Curt had no idea why Owen thought that he’d ever abandon him. 

 

“Tell me we’re going to get out of here,” Owen said after several moments of silence filled only by his ragged breaths. He was staying very still, and Curt once again wished he could reach out and take Owen’s hand.

 

“We’re going to get out of here,” Curt echoed, trying to make it sound more believable than it realistically was. Owen took a deep breath in. His expression, while still etched with sharp lines of pain, hardened into resolve.

 

“Can you reach me?” Owen asked, turning his gaze away from Curt, as if he were embarrassed by his question and already regretted asking. 

 

Curt immediately shifted so that he was facing away from Owen. By doing so, his legs were sprawled out towards Owen, allowing him to be the closest that the chains permitted. 

 

“Can’t get any further, but you might be able to reach my leg,” Curt said, trying to keep his voice casual so that Owen would be reassured that he need not be embarrassed by his need for contact. This was a request that Curt was more than willing to grant. 

 

Owen stretched his arm out as much as he could without straining himself too much, but he winced through the whole ordeal. As Owen reached out slowly  to try and reach him, Curt tried to exude calm and reassurance.

 

“Gotcha,” Owen said finally, his hand grabbing hold of Curt’s ankle loosely. 

 

Curt smiled at the contact, wishing for nothing more than to be able to turn around and see Owen’s face, but he knew that that would require him breaking contact once again.

 

“I’m not going anywhere, O,” he said, and he felt Owen’s fingers curl a little tighter around his ankle. 

 

While he couldn’t see Owen’s face, he could hear a quiet choking sound behind him that startled him. Then, he realized what the noise was. Owen was holding back a sob, either so that Curt would not hear or because he didn’t want to cry. Curt could understand either reason, of course. They were spies, and they were meant to be emotionless. Owen naturally would want to hide his moment of “weakness” from Curt. On the other hand, crying meant acknowledging that something was wrong, that Owen was truly hurt. It meant accepting their situation, accepting the pain, accepting the helplessness. 

 

Curt shook his head. It didn’t matter why Owen didn’t want to cry; it mattered that he needed to. Holding it in, shutting himself down, would do him no good here.

 

“It’s ok to cry,” he whispered finally, barely audible. 

 

It didn’t take any more prompting. Owen let out a heart wrenching sob, and Curt felt his whole body tense. If only he could reach Owen, if only he could offer him a safe haven in his arms…

 

All he could offer was his presence while Owen cried. 

 

After several minutes, Owen must have cried himself out or calmed himself down. His sobs slowly became shaky breaths, and Curt felt him squeeze his ankle tightly. 

 

“Sorry,” Owen said, voice hoarse.

 

“Don’t be,” Curt said. He could have stopped there, could have let it end with just a small reassurance. Hesitantly, he added, “I cried for a while while you were asleep.”

 

That must have shocked Owen because he fell quiet. If Curt could have kicked himself, he would have. Of course Owen wouldn’t understand his comment. Curt had come out of the torture relatively unscathed, so he had no real reason to be crying. It wasn’t exactly commonplace to cry over a partner being tortured, most especially because they were partners from two separate agencies. How could Curt explain that he had sobbed for nearly an hour because he didn’t know if Owen would come back—come back to him? It was selfish, Curt knew, but that didn’t make it any less real.

 

Finally, he heard Owen hiccup.

 

“Curt Mega,” Owen said, his voice holding none of the bitterness Curt had been expecting, “never cry over me.”

 

Curt didn’t understand. He didn’t ask. Owen sounded gentle, genuine, and a bit… touched? Curt couldn’t tell without the facial cues to accompany his words, but he didn’t hear any anger at all. Owen gave his ankle another squeeze, one Curt assumed was meant to be reassuring.

 

“No promises,” Curt said, trying to push a little humor into his voice. The small smile on his face faded as quick as it appeared when Curt found himself admitting what he had told himself he’d never tell Owen. “I didn’t know if you were going to wake up.”

 

Owen shifted; Curt could tell because of the way his grip on Curt’s ankle adjusted. He had fallen silent, and Curt waited patiently for a response. He wouldn’t apologize for caring, and he was beginning to think that Owen didn’t think he needed to.

 

“S’not bad,” Owen said eventually. “I think it’s just a second degree burn.”

 

“Oh, yeah,” Curt scoffed, “Just a second degree burn, no big deal.” 

 

Owen laughed. It was actually more of a snort, but Curt loved to hear it either way. A small smile slipped across his face before he could help it. He wanted to glance back, to look into Owen’s eyes, but he didn’t dare risk moving in such a way that would break their contact. It was, strangely, the most intimate that they’d ever been with one another. In all fairness, getting tortured two days in a row was definitely excuse enough for Owen to be acting with a little more vulnerability. 

 

Curt was happy that he trusted him enough to let his guard down when he needed to.

 

“I’ll be good in no time, my friend,” Owen said. Curt shook his head but didn’t press the matter. 

 

“Good,” Curt said, somewhere between joking and seriousness, “because I’ll need you in fighting form if we’re going to get out of here tomorrow.”

 

He felt Owen shift again more than he heard it, and Curt wished he could see the expression on his face. Curt knew that his words had caught him off guard, of course, but Owen’s soft hiccup was not the reaction he had been expecting.

 

“We’re getting out of here?” It wasn’t quite a question, but it wasn’t said with any amount of certainty.

 

Curt could hear the shakiness in Owen’s voice, and he wondered if it was from pain, fear, or relief. He quickly nodded, before realizing that Owen likely couldn’t see what he was doing.

 

“We’re getting out of here,” Curt affirmed, his voice strong enough to fool even himself into believing. 

 

Owen sniffed, his breathing evening back out again. 

 

“We’re getting out of here.” Owen’s voice was a little steadier, a little more steadfast. He sounded almost as if he believed Curt, despite the fact that Curt had offered no plans to Owen at all.

 

We’re getting out of here, Curt promised himself, thinking through his idea once again.

 

Tomorrow.

Chapter Text

The plan was simple.

 

Owen would play dead, and Curt would scream for help. Owen was a decent enough actor that whoever came running would have to at least check that he was, in fact, no longer alive. When Owen revealed himself and lashed out to the best of his ability, Curt would use the moment of distraction to slip his chains and take down whoever was in the room with them. He would find a way to get Owen out of his chains. They would escape this hell once and for all. 

 

The plan was simple, in theory.

 

Unfortunately, talking about a perfect scenario was far different from the many different ways the situation could play out in actuality.

 

The plan started very early in the third morning, when Curt, after taking several deep, steadying breaths, yanked his wrist at a sharp angle with stone cold resolve. He nearly cried out, but he bit down on his lip even as his wrist began to bleed. Finally, he twisted his hand and squeezed his fingers together, and his hand came free of the first cuff. It was a miracle that he was able to do so, though he supposed that he’d been pulling at them for long enough that he’d either scraped enough skin from his wrists to give himself some leeway, or he’d slicked the inside of the cuff with his own blood and sweat. Perhaps it was both options. 

 

He stopped before he could start on getting his other hand free, breathing rapidly, his determination wavering as his wrist dripped blood onto the floor in front of him.

 

“Almost there, Curt,” Owen whispered, coaxing a small smile out of Curt. Owen shifted, wincing the whole way, to get a better look at Curt’s face. They had separated at some point in the night, and they’d remainined apart so as to get ready for what was about to occur. That didn’t mean that Curt was happy about it, most notably because he could still feel where Owen’s fingers had been, a ghost of a sensation that set his skin ablaze with warmth. Owen’s voice once again drew him back to his senses. “You can do this.”

 

Curt gripped the other cuff as best as he could with his knackered wrist and pulled hard, not stopping to think. The second cuff came loose much quicker, thankfully, but it hurt far worse. This one actually did get a vocal reaction as it tore away skin while sliding off, but it was much more of a gasp than a cry.

 

He took a few steadying breaths, shaking his head and staring down at his bleeding wrists and hands. It better be goddamn worth it. 

 

Curt stopped his thoughts there. There was no room to even speculate about a bad outcome. They had to be sure about this, or it would go bad very quickly.

 

“How are you doing?” Owen asked after a handful of seconds had passed.

 

Curt almost chuckled, but he was still wincing and breathing heavily. He gripped the cuffs, trying to resituate them on his hands in such a way that they looked to be clamped on his wrists still. He tried not to focus on how his hands shook. The skin on his wrists had only suffered damage to the topmost layer; he could handle this.

 

“Not my favorite of our plans,” he said finally, shrugging. 

 

Owen smiled tightly at him, but Curt could see the anticipation he was feeling in the tension in his shoulders and the hard lines in his face. Curt tried not to think about the plethora of wounds Owen had at this point, but he couldn’t help the way his eyes lingered over Owen’s body. This was not in the way that Curt usually looked over Owen—it lacked the hunger, the self hate, the reverence. No, this time he looked over Owen the same way he’d look at a half broken glass. It was as if one small movement would result in Owen shattering.

 

“It’ll be fine,” Owen said, but his voice was growing softer. Curt knew he was getting ready for part two of their plan. It didn’t make it any easier to watch.

 

“You good there, O?” Curt asked, mostly for effect, letting his voice carry enough that anyone guarding their door would likely hear. Owen gave him a dramatic wink, before letting his cheek connect with the cold ground. Curt very nearly scoffed.

 

Drama queen.

 

“‘M fine…” Owen certainly sounded the part, and he situated himself a little differently on the floor so as to look the part.

 

Curt took a deep breath, letting the pain from his wrists, from watching his closest friend be tortured to near death, from being starved and dehydrated, seep into his words.

 

“O? Owen?” Curt’s voice grew steadily more panicked and loud. “Owen? Owen?!”

 

He started screaming nonsense. He screamed out for help from someone, anyone, he screamed for Owen, he screamed in pain. 

 

He mostly just screamed.

 

Finally, after several minutes had passed and Curt‘s throat was feeling scratchy and raw, the door was wrenched open, and a man came running in. Curt moved his hands closer to his body instinctively, trying to hide the fact that the cuffs were on his fingers instead of his wrists. The man, thankfully, did not seem to notice anything except for Curt’s screeching.

 

The man said something in Russian, something Curt could barely hear over the racket he was making, so Curt just started gesturing at Owen and screaming even louder about helping him.

 

The man turned around, cautiously circling Owen before kneeling down beside him, meaning he was still facing Curt. He kept his eyes on Curt even as his hand fumbled around Owen’s neck, searching clumsily for a pulse. Curt kept screaming, but his cries had descended into something more akin to wailing. He didn’t know why he felt despair so deep in his chest, but he knew it had something to do with the way Owen was laying there, looking dead to the world. Curt knew it was an act, but he could not stop the pain that bubbled up from somewhere way down in his stomach. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it and let out a choked sob. 

 

This was no time to play the what-if game. 

 

The man shifted, getting closer to Owen to continue to try to find a pulse. He was now almost leaning over Owen, seemingly startled by Curt’s panic into thinking that this might just be the real deal. 

 

It was then that Owen made his move.

 

Owen lashed out, striking the man in the face with his chained wrists. The man cried out and fell back onto his ass in a state of shock.

 

Curt took his chance while the man was distracted by Owen’s miraculous resurrection. He let the chains that had so long restrained him fall to the ground. Curt launched himself at the man, catching him off guard. He began to pummel him with a barrage of blows, and the man had only a moment to cry out before he was knocked unconscious. 

 

Curt stood, shaking his hands. They hurt. A lot. 

 

He didn’t let himself look down at them. Looking at his injuries only ever seemed to make them hurt worse, so he would ignore them for now. Instead, he focused on getting Owen free. 

 

Owen was struggling to sit up, and Curt helped him sit straight before taking Owen’s cuffs in his hand. He looked over at the man on the ground.

 

“Hold on, I have an idea,” Curt said. 

 

He turned back to the man that had been guarding their door. He knelt beside him and began patting him down, searching for a key to Owen’s restraints or something small and flexible enough to be used to pick the lock. 

 

Before he found anything of the sort, he found a gun in the man’s waist band. Curt checked to see that it was loaded (it was) before checking that the safety was on (it was). He shoved it into his own waistband, ignoring the jolt that went through his body as the cold metal connected with the small of his back.

 

He kept looking. In the man’s pocket was a rolled up stack of three papers, all held together by a paper clip. He discarded the papers, ignoring what looked to be weapons blueprints of some kind, but pulled the paper clip off. Curt breathed out a sigh of relief, and instantly got to reshaping the paper clip into a makeshift lock pick.

 

Curt turned around and settled next to Owen, starting to work on the chains with his jaw set in determination.

 

“Stop twirling it, you don’t have a tension rod to catch the other pins,” Owen said, watching with a mild grimace as Curt fumbled with the lock (the grimace had nothing to do with pain and everything to do with Curt’s horrendous lock picking technique). 

 

“Oh, shut it, I’ve almost got it.”

 

Right on cue, there was a click, and then Owen’s restraints fell away. He rubbed his wrists, where angry red marks that would surely become bruises twisted around the skin like abstract roses in a bouquet. Curt made the mistake of touching his own wrists, but he quickly drew his hand away and hissed at the pain.

 

“We need to stop the bleeding,” Owen said, his voice coming out with so much forced calm that it sounded tight. He looked around the room once, before his eyes settled on the remains of his jacket. “My jacket!”

 

He gestured to the pile of tatters that had once been his jacket. It was beside him still, exactly where Anatoly had left it after cutting it off of him. 

 

Curt, who was not in the mood to argue about getting himself patched up, stooped low and quickly selected two strands of the material. He wrapped them, one at a time, around his bleeding wrists and pulled tight before looking over at Owen for help. Owen reached out, hands still shaky, and knotted them tight enough that they would hold. As he did so, Curt glanced down and away, keeping his eyes on anything but Owen or his injured wrists. Wincing, Curt rolled his wrists, testing for mobility. Finding his range of motion to be acceptable, he nodded to Owen. 

 

“We should wrap your side, too,” he said, already reaching for two longer pieces of Owen’s jacket. Owen started to protest, something about not having time, but Curt leveled him with a sharp glare. “Stop complaining, I’ll be done in thirty seconds.”

 

Owen stayed perfectly still as Curt tied the two strips together. He barely even twitched as Curt began wrapping the material around his waist, but his face was scrunched up in pain and his gaze lingered on the ceiling far above them. Teeth grinding and eyes screwed shut, Owen seemed to be somewhere between angry and exhausted. Thankfully, Curt was done in a matter of seconds, although he would be the first to admit it wasn’t the prettiest or most effective patch job. 

 

Oh, well. Desperate times and all that.

 

After a quick word of warning, Curt first helped pull Owen to his feet, before snaking an arm around his waist and pulling Owen’s arm over his shoulders. Curt was careful not to grip too low on Owen’s side, where the burns remained even hidden beneath a layer of fabric. 

 

Curt took in a deep breath.

 

“You ready?” He asked, withdrawing the gun from his waistband. Owen was half hanging off of his side, but his jaw flexed. He nodded, his eyes hard and cold.

 

“Let’s do this.”

Chapter Text

Concrete walls. Concrete floors. Flashes of light through windows too high up to reach.

 

The compound was a maze, and Curt and Owen were like lab rats, scampering around with no sense of which way was left, right, or wrong. Despite the fact that they were free, Curt couldn’t shake the feeling that they were more trapped now than they had ever been before. 

 

He took a deep, shuddering breath in an attempt to calm himself. 

 

This was no time for negative thoughts. Curt kept his mind focused and his eyes on the prize. For his sake and Owen’s, he had to be on top of his game. 

 

Curt knew that he had to keep going, especially because Owen was counting on him to get them as far as he could. From where he was hanging off of Curt’s side, Owen was beginning to dip in and out of consciousness, but he managed to help limp himself along so that Curt would not be bearing the entirety of his weight as they raced through the halls. Careful not to aggravate the already inflamed wound encompassing Owen’s entire left side, Curt led him down the halls to the best of his ability.

 

Had they been down this one before?

 

He couldn't tell anymore. Every hall was the same. Concrete walls. Concrete floors. Concrete walls. Concrete floors.

 

Curt let himself settle into a concrete resolve. This building had taken much from him and Owen already; he would not let it force him any lower. He had to keep up hope.

 

Besides, all things considered, they moved with decent haste.

 

They scampered along like an odd, three-legged creature of sorts, what with the way they latched on to one another, and they did an interesting half-run-half-stutter-step the whole way. Despite their attempts to keep as quiet as possible, their peculiar gait was clumsy and clunky; Curt was surprised the whole compound hadn’t come rushing after them yet.

 

Curt allowed himself a moment to glance over at Owen. His partner was a crumpled mess, but his jaw was set in a determined line even as his eyes fluttered open and closed haphazardly.

 

“Eyes open, O,” Curt said, ignoring the way his own voice shook in betrayal of his forced attitude of certainty. “We’re almost there.”

 

He didn’t know where “there” was, but—god dammit—he was going to get himself and Owen there as quick as possible.

 

They hadn’t planned out what to do after they’d gotten free, especially since neither of them was entirely certain where they were or how they’d gotten there. They had set up a plan to get as far as the door of their holding cell. Now, they were making it up as they went and changing their minds on the fly. 

 

Curt knew, on some level, that they hadn’t planned this far ahead with the escape plan because neither of them had expected to get this far at all.

 

His jaw flexed, and he held on to Owen a little tighter.

 

“‘M good,” Owen mumbled. He certainly did not sound good. He was pale, paler than usual, at least, and sweating far more than he realistically should be, considering the fact that Curt was practically carrying him down the hallway. His head lolled to the side as Curt turned another corner quickly, but he shook it in what must have been an attempt to wake himself back up. He repeated, “Almost there.”

 

Curt staggered down another hall, feeling a small sense of hope well up in his chest as the concrete walls he’d grown so accustomed to began to give way every few feet to large windows, all close enough to the ground to give Curt an idea of where he was. 

 

Just beyond the window, Curt could see a blue sky that seemed far too innocent and normal to be shining above them in a situation like this. They were on the second floor, meaning they needed to get down a level to find the exit. If only he knew where to find the stairs—

 

Gunfire.

 

Cut pulled Owen tighter against his side instinctively, ducking into a crouch. He pulled them around another corner as fast as his feet would carry him, ignoring the zing of bullets that whizzed past just above their heads. The heat of a bullet grazed his free arm, but he didn’t dare look to see if it had struck him, even superficially. He was running on pure adrenaline, and he didn’t have time to examine himself.

 

The sound of gunshots followed them, growing steadily nearer, but Curt was more energized now. He practically carried Owen down through more hallways, somehow forgetting the pain in his wrists, his arms, his legs, his everywhere.

 

To his credit, shock acted as a hell of a drug.

 

He would have kept running too, as long as he could from whatever cronies were after them, but Owen, with an impressive amount of strength considering his predicament, grabbed him by the collar and leaned, slamming them both into a door. 

 

“We can’t outrun them like this,” Owen rasped out, sounding almost as out of breath as Curt.

 

Curt did not like what it sounded like Owen was implying.

 

“If you’re suggesting I leave you behind—”

 

“No,” Owen cut him off with a decisive shake of the head. “We can’t outrun them in a straight chase, so we need to hide.”

 

The thundering of footfalls grew too loud to be comfortable, so Curt didn’t waste any time trying to argue with Owen. He nodded and let Owen take the lead. They stumbled into the first room they found open, a supply closet of sorts, and shut the door as quietly as possible. Curt tried to even out his breaths so that the sound of his huffing and puffing wouldn’t be what gave them away. He and Owen stood stock still, waiting and listening. 

 

Finally, the sound of men running down the hall echoed so loud that they were likely just outside the door. Curt panicked for a split second, thinking the men had slowed to a stop because they had found them. One man said something too quick in Russian for Curt to translate, and then the men took off again in search of them. 

 

Curt let out a sigh of relief and slid down the closet door, helping to guide Owen to the ground as well as he did so.

 

Even in the pitch black of the closet, Curt could tell that Owen was exhausted. He shook so bad that his shoulder continuously rubbed against Curt’s, and his skin dripped with cold sweat.

 

Curt adjusted his grip so that he had his arm around Owen’s shoulder instead of his waist. 

 

“Take a breather, O,” he whispered, trying to shove as much confidence and compassion into his voice as he could. 

 

Owen nodded at him, leaning into the contact slightly. Curt knew it was an awful time to be thinking about the way Owen’s body fit against his in this position, the way Owen was practically curled into Curt’s side. He wanted to reach out to stroke Owen’s hair, to touch his face, to hold him close and tell him it would all be fine, that they would both survive this. Instead, Curt let himself remain in this quiet, intimate moment. He held Owen only as tightly as could be considered reassuring without slipping into a position that carried with it more emotion, more romanticism.

 

Curt closed his eyes, trying to push back thoughts of being anything other than exactly the friend Owen needed right then. 

 

He didn’t need some bumbling idiot with a school boy’s crush. No, he needed Agent Curt Mega, his most trusted partner and most loyal friend. He could be Agent Mega for as long as Owen needed, for as long as it took for them to escape. 

 

“We’re getting out of here,” Owen said through gritted teeth.

 

His resolve moved Curt but didn’t surprise him. This was his Owen Carvour, after all, the sharpest of shooters and minds, the same man who’d once single handedly taken out seven armed gunmen at the same time because Curt had been in trouble. This was his immovable partner, the man who could never be broken, who could never be bested. 

 

Curt looked at him like he was his sun, his moon, and all of his stars. He looked at him with the same reverence he reserved for forces of nature, like the tornados that had frequently ravaged his childhood hometown, like the wildfires he’d seen rip through entire forests on road-trips to the west coast of the United States.

 

His mouth opened and closed several times as Curt searched for the right words to say, words that weren’t quite so… illegal or promiscuous. Between the adrenaline high wearing down and his fuddled thoughts, he couldn’t think in a straight enough line to form a cohesive sentence.

 

“Almost there,” he repeated, finally. “We’re almost there.”

 

Concrete walls, concrete floors. Concrete heart.

 

Almost there.

Chapter Text

They stayed in the cupboard for just over ten minutes.

 

Curt took the time to focus on his breathing, to calm himself. By the looks of it, Owen was doing the same thing beside him. They both leaned against the door, stooped over from exhaustion, and their bodies pressed together—shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh—for both stability and comfort. Curt couldn’t help the way his head lolled over nearly on Owen’s shoulder, nor could he bring himself to give a damn at that moment. If they were to die, it would at least be together.

 

He almost scoffed at himself. Agents Curt Mega and Owen Carvour were too fucking stubborn to die.

 

“What’s the damage?” Curt whispered, knowing he was close enough to Owen that he needn’t speak very loud at all to be heard. 

 

Giving damage reports had been their tradition, of sorts, in the field. When one of them asked the other for a damage report, they would oblige by listing off every injury. Listing injuries allowed them to compartmentalize, to turn their pain into something logical and distant in order to further rationalize it and plan for what else they could do given their current state. It helped Curt, to an extent, but Owen always seemed far more at ease afterwards. Owen was a neat and orderly type of person, a real Type A personality, and lists were kind of his guilty pleasure. Curt, who was as far from organized as humanly possible, would normally tease him for that. 

 

When it came to damage reports, he held his tongue. 

 

“You first?” Owen asked, leaning into Curt a little more to give him a small shove in the shoulder with his own shoulder. Curt shook his head at the deflection, but he let it slide. There was no point arguing with Owen about the logistics of who said how fucked up they were first.

 

“Wrists are the worst, but my head’s absolutely wrecked, as well. Maybe a cracked rib, but I’m pretty sure it’s just bruised.”

 

Owen sighed, letting his head fall back against the door. Curt let own his head drop a little further, telling himself it was due to the exhaustion, and his cheek connected with Owen’s shoulder. Curt half expected Owen to shrug him off or make a comment, even though he knew Owen wasn’t one to exhibit toxic masculinity normally. If Owen was at all uncomfortable with the movement, he did a very good job of hiding it. 

 

When no repercussions came, Curt allowed his head to settle even further into Owen’s shoulder, somewhere between his neck and collarbone. 

 

Owen stood taller, a fact that usually both pissed off and aroused Curt. The fact that he was the exact right height for Curt to lean into in order to place his head on his shoulder was a new (and welcome) one. He could feel every rise and fall of Owen’s shoulders as he breathed deeply, and it calmed him. Before he knew it, his eyes began to flutter closed.

 

“Eyes open, ducky,” Owen said, reaching out with the hand closest to Curt to grab his knee. “You promised you’d stay.”

 

Curt grinned, despite himself. If only Owen knew the extent to which he’d go to keep that promise. He forced his eyes open, willing himself to keep up his strength. The whole not eating for three days was taking its toll; Curt felt weaker than he normally would during an escape.

 

 “I’m awake, I’m awake,” he said softly, trying to let his smile seep into his voice. “Your turn to report.”

 

Owen sat straighter, startled, like he’d forgotten.

 

He shifted, careful to move in such a way that Curt wouldn’t be disturbed, for which Curt was grateful. The room was too dark to make out any true details, but Curt could see the way Owen twitched his fingers, rubbing his thumb and middle finger together in a circular motion. Curt knew it to be a nervous habit of his, one that Curt often used as a visual cue to step in and help in any way he could to alleviate the tension in his partner’s life. Soon enough though, Owen settled, and his fingers fell still.

 

“Knees not great, side hurts like hell, maybe a concussion and a bruised rib,” Owen said finally. He squeezed Curt’s knee once again, and then his hand fell away. 

 

He felt Owen relax a bit, and then he felt something weighing against his head. It was steadying, comforting even, and Curt realized with a start that it was Owen’s head laying over the top of his. He didn’t comment on the movement, didn’t dare risk drawing attention to what might just be the most intimate interaction of their three years as partners.

 

There had always been an element of flirtatiousness in their partnership, especially on missions that required Curt to use his midwesterner’s charm on a mark. It was mostly teasing, small comments that could be written off as jokes even when they were a little too close to real affection. They had grown close over the years, close enough to know the other on an instinctual level, and Owen had long since given up acting exasperated with Curt when he got mouthy. Even as Curt actively worked to hide his crush on Owen, he knew his partner would ultimately react only mildly if he ever found out Curt was a homosexual. Owen had never minded their playful complimenting, had never minded the way Curt never truly took interest in any of the very beautiful girls he had been ordered to seduce each mission. 

 

Here, in the dark of the supply closet, with only a thin wood door separating them from an angry group of Russians, Curt let himself pretend. He imagined that Owen not only knew about his sexuality but actively encouraged it. He imagined that their closeness stemmed from a want for intimacy instead of a need for comfort. He imagined what it would be like to know Owen so completely, to run his hands through his hair and stare into his warm brown eyes that always made him feel like he was coming home. He imagined sitting like this for hours, his head tucked against Owen’s shoulder and Owen’s head atop his, as if this was something normal, something real.

 

He only let himself pretend for about a moment, before he took in a deep breath. 

 

“We can’t stay here forever.” He tried not to let the bitterness over what could have been seep into his voice. He felt Owen nod more than he saw it.

 

“You’re right,” he said. Owen shifted again, lifting his head up to glance around the tiny closet that had served as their solace for these past few minutes.

Curt had to actually bite his tongue in order to stop himself from groaning as the warmth of Owen’s cheek against his scalp left him. 

 

They stood slowly, still close enough to be touching, eventually finding their way to their feet with a fair amount of grimacing.

 

Curt rolled his shoulders back, ignoring the very audible pop that happened when he did so. His joints were already prone to popping just from the many abuses he’d suffered from life as a spy, but he had spent the last seventy two hours with his arms out in front of him, which made for some very sore shoulders.

 

Owen must’ve heard the pop because he let out a very quiet chuckle. Curt knew that Owen hated it when his joints would crack but that he also found Curt’s reaction to a freshly cracked joint amusing. He supposed it had to do with the way he sighed at the immediate relief that would flood his body whenever he popped joints that had been sore for ages. 

 

Curt decided that it didn’t matter why Owen was laughing so much as it mattered that he was laughing at all. The situation they were in was ridiculously helpless, and Curt honestly had no idea if they were going to survive this mission at all. Usually, he’d have his wrist watch to communicate with A.S.S, and Owen would have contacts a block away from their location so that they always had either a government or a close friend available to assist them with an extraction. This time, unfortunately, Curt was without his watch, and neither Owen nor Curt could remember enough about where they were to make a call to one of Owen’s contacts.

 

If Owen could laugh, despite all that, then Curt knew he’d be alright.

 

They stood very still beside each other for several seconds, until Owen slipped his arm over Curt’s shoulders. Curt took that as his cue to help Owen stay right side up, especially since his knee only seemed to get shakier and shakier as each moment passed. He gripped Owen’s waist, mindfully of his wounds, and took the brunt of his weight as Owen slumped into him, already exhausted from the exertion of standing upright on his own for a few seconds.

 

Curt took a deep breath, trying to come up with a plan before they opened the door and went barreling back into danger.

 

“Heat anything?” Owen asked, leaning his head back against the door.. “Don’t want to run into any old friends.” 

 

There was a genuine dislike in Owen's voice that was not lost on Curt. 

 

Curt took another deep breath. Now was not the time to be thinking of the men who had tortured Owen, even though their faces would join the many that haunted his dreams every night. He had to quell the rage that boiled up in his chest and blurred his vision red. It was imperative that he keep a level head; too much of any emotion would set him off his game. An enraged agent was an irrational one. 

 

An irrational agent was a dead one.

 

“Can’t hear anything,” Curt said after pressing his ear to the door and listening for a little while.

 

The two turned, moving together as if they already knew what the other was going to do a half second before they actually did it. Now, they were facing the door. Curt reached out, letting his hand touch the doorknob lightly. 

 

He felt Owen tense up. 

 

Curt reached instinctively for the gun in his waistband. He knew Owen was just getting himself prepared for their escape, but the movement was enough to startle Curt into thinking that they were in danger.

 

“You good, O?”

 

“Always, old sport,” Owen said so softly that Curt could have imagined it. “Just getting myself prepared to face the music.”

 

Curt understood. It wasn’t illegal to be afraid, and Curt even found it courageous for one to share their inhibitions.

 

“Would it help to focus on some different music?” Curt asked, not entirely sure how his words came out confident and strong despite his own trepidation.

 

Owen looked at him quizzically, but he eventually nodded, slow and hesitant, but trusting Curt’s judgement completely.

 

“Remember that jazz band? In the bar upstate?” Curt asked, trying not to let himself get swallowed up by the memories even as he spoke of them. 

 

Owen hummed in response, but he was beginning to relax in the shoulders.

 

“The singer was damn good,” Owen said, eyes on Curt. The way he stared only served to raise Curt’s already rushing heartbeat, and Curt feared that it was beating so quick and loud that Owen would be able to hear it.

 

“She was.” Curt took a deep breath, and closed his eyes just long enough to picture the tiny bar. It had been hazy, filled with smoke and scented with a million different perfumes and colognes—some worth a thousand dollars and some worth maybe a dime and a nickle. Curt had been drinking whiskey, drowning himself in it really; Owen had only had a few sips of beer because he was their ride home.

 

 The young singer had had a voice like honey, slow and sweet, and when she had started singing Bye Bye Blackbird Curt had nearly combusted. He still remembered the was Owen had looked, his dress shirt unbuttoned more so than it would normally be on missions and his shoulders relaxed. He’d looked good enough to break the laws for.

 

“One day I’ll learn all the words to that song.” Owen’s eyes were closed, which gave Curt a moment to look over his face and memorize his features for the thousandth time. 

 

“Never took you for much of a singer, Carvour,” Curt teased, but it wasn’t an honest statement. 

 

Owen had always been drawn to singing, he knew. It had started with humming, which he would do in safe houses or when in transit when he thought Curt was asleep or too busy to notice. It had quickly grown from that into Owen half-singing-half-whispering melodies he’d picked up from whatever bar he’d been in recently. Curt had always let it happen without complaint. 

 

Why on earth would he ever give Owen a reason to stop singing when it made him weak in the knees?

 

Owen did not so much chuckle at Curt’s words as he did breath air very quickly out his nose, but Curt knew it to be a sign of his amusement. He reveled in his ability to draw out a laugh from Owen during even the most inopportune or impossible moments. 

 

“Yeah, well,”Owen leaned a little further into Curt to give him a nudge. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”

 

“We should go back there,” Curt said before she could stop or censor the words that tumbled from his lips. He froze immediately, waiting for Owen to call him out for even suggesting something so… so… romantic? Sensitive?

 

“What, that old New York one?”

 

“Silly idea, sorry,” Curt backtracked as quickly as he could, waiting for Owen to catch on to his apologetic nature. “That band probably isn’t even playing there anymore.”

 

“Actually, I was going to ask if frequenting a bar was against one of Cynthia’s ridiculous rules,” Owen said, smiling. Curt almost laughed, and a sense of relief flooded his body.

 

“Actually, yes,” He smiled back, gripping Owen tighter. “Rule number seventeen:  Never go anywhere enough for people to know your name.”

 

“Anywhere? How on earth do you manage that?”

 

“Her rules are more of guidelines, to be fair.” He paused. “Don’t tell her I said that.”

 

Owen shook his head, the smile still blessing his face. Curt reached out to touch the doorknob again, mentally preparing himself for whatever would meet them beyond the safety of their momentary shelter.

 

“Ready, O?” Curt asked softly. The room was silent. When he didn’t receive any response back after a few moments, Curt squeezed Owen’s side carefully to get his attention. “Owen?”

 

“I’m good.” Owen turned to look at Curt, still hanging off the side of him. 

 

“You ready?”

 

“As I’ll ever be,” Owen said with a cheeky grin. “It’s just like Berlin last year.”

 

“Just like—? You and I remember Berlin very differently.”

 

“I’ll be honest,” Owen shifted, bracing himself for their next move, “most of what I remember is overshadowed by Cynthia screaming at you when we made it to the safe house.”

 

“Now that’s a memory I wish I could forget.”

 

Curt held on to the moment as long as he could before letting it slip away, a new memory to reminisce about later on. Maybe he’d hold Owen like that again, in less frightening times. 

 

For now, he ground down his teeth and opened the closet door.

Chapter Text

On the bright side, they found the stairs that led down to the first floor. On the not-so-bright side, they also found several armed and angry cronies.

 

Curt was getting real sick and tired of getting shot at, especially since not a single one of their attackers was an overwhelmingly impressive shot. If they were going to try so hard to ruin his perfectly decent morning they might as well do a good job of it. Instead, Curt found himself running— again —with Owen doing a weird skipping sort of thing while he clung to Curt’s side. 

 

The were using the confusing layout of the compound to their advantage. They ducked down hallways haphazardly, paying no mind to anything but any opportunity they came across to put as much distance between themselves and the five or six shouting soviets that were hot on their tail. 

 

Curt took a deep breath in an attempt to keep his heart rate down, but he was quickly tiring out. 

 

It was one thing to be running through an unknown facility to make his escape. It was an entirely different situation to be running through an unknown facility to make his escape while injured. Tack on the fact that he was running through an unknown facility to make his escape while injured and practically carrying his partner, who was even more injured than him, and you had a recipe for disaster.

 

Curt didn’t stop to think about their odds or the countless scenarios that could play out. Instead, he focused on the grounding bite of cold metal against his warm palm. He was yet to actually fire off a shot with the gun in his hand, but he had brandished it in preparation when they had first come across the group hunting them, almost immediately after they had stepped out from the closet. Curt wasn’t entirely sure how many rounds he had, and he didn’t dare waste what might be their greatest asset in getting out of here alive.

 

Curt felt trapped, but there was something steadying about having Owen beside him that kept him sane. He kept repeating their shared words over and over again in his head like a mantra, like a promise— almost there, almost there, almost there .

 

Another shot whizzed by, close enough to feel the heat graze his skin on his free arm, and Curt knee that they couldn’t run zig-zags forever. They needed cover, and they needed it fast.

 

He pushed out the sounds of shouting and shooting, the smell of gunpowder igniting, the feeling of cold dread mixing with the resolve in his stomach. He pushed away the unhelpful stimuli, instead focusing on his surroundings. In a way, he divorced himself from his emotions. He needed to be smart, or he would be dead. 

 

He felt Owen lean, a movement he, at first, figured to be Owen slipping into unconsciousness momentarily. Then, he realized that Owen was tugging at him and trying to guide him into a side hallway.

 

Curt allowed himself a moment to glance over at Owen. His partner was a mess, to say the least, but he looked determined enough to sway Curt.

 

“Alright,” Curt said, quickly maneuvering so that they would make the turn without falling over. He fired off a shot at the men chasing them as they ducked down the hall, striking one in the shoulder.

 

He didn’t know where they were going or if Owen even had a plan, but he trusted him.

 

Owen was determined to find something, and Curt was glad to see the wheels turning in his head. Between the two of them, Owen was the better at planning things that would actually work, even if Curt was a quicker thinker on his feet. Seeing Owen thinking hard also meant that, to some extent, Owen was feeling well enough to be back in the game.

 

Curt couldn’t lie. He’d been scared there when, earlier, Owen had seemed very near giving up.

 

Curt’s jaw flexed, and he tried not to shake his head.

 

“In here,” Owen said, after a moment. He practically fell into a door beside them. Curt obliged, guiding them both into the room and slamming the door, doing his best not to worry about how close the footsteps are behind them. He immediately let Owen slide against the wall and, with his newly free hand, slammed the door shut. He leans his body weight against it. 

 

There’s a moment of silence, and then the door is being pounded on, so much so that Curt had to brave himself with both legs, his back against the door.

 

“We need to barricade the door.”

 

Curt tried very hard not to give Owen a look that said I’m a bit busy here , but his face must have acted of its volition because Owen—his infuriating, amazing Owen—laughed at him.

 

Curt was stunned, but he didn’t have the time to focus on the sound.

 

Owen gripped the edge of the desk he was leaning against and started to heave with the last reserves of his strength. Curt kept his back against the door, legs braced, but he tried to grip the desk and help pull it into place. It was definitely an uncomfortable experience, what with the horrible pounding on the door that consistently made him lurch forward. 

 

Finally, after several tense moments, they had gotten the desk in place.

 

The half second of pride was shattered as a gunshot rang out. Both Curt and Owen ducked instinctively as the shot splintered through the door in between them, narrowly missing the two of them on either side. Owen could not stop the momentum of jumping away from the bullet, unfortunately, which led to him falling to the floor in a heap with a groan.

 

Curt wanted to check in on him, but he had to focus on keeping them both alive at that moment, which was a touch more important.

 

Curt scanned the room quickly. They must have been in an office room of sorts, or what used to be an office at least, because there was, aside from the desk that they’d shoved unceremoniously in front of the door, two more desks and, against the side wall, a filing cabinet. Curt immediately got to work, ignoring the pounding outside the door and in his own veins. He pushed one of the desks behind the first one, creating a backup weight to further brace the door. Then, he dragged the last desk over to the small pile of desks and, with a grunt, lifted the desk, one end at a time, up on top of the first one.

 

“Think it will hold them?” Owen asked, sounding more out of breath than Curt even as he remained curled up on the ground.

 

Curt shook his head, crossing the room.

 

“It’s not going to hold long,” Curt helped Owen sit up straight before unloading the clip from his gun to check his amo situation. “I’ve only got three shots left.”

 

“It just needs to hold a little longer,” Owen said with an amount of certainty that surprised Curt. “We’re not going to be in here very long.”

 

Curt scanned his face, trying to decipher what he meant.

 

The pounding outside began to sound less haphazard and more organized, meaning the Russians had decided to work together. This was a terrifying thought, and it sent the desks rattling. Even still, the makeshift barricade held. Curt breathed in—deep, sharp, unsure.

 

Curt knelt beside Owen, and he placed a hand on his shoulder to steady him.

 

Owen was a mess, well and truly. He was shaking, from both exhaustion and pain, and he was drenched in sweat. Curt knew he wasn’t going to be able to pull another stunt that involved running or fighting or… doing anything really.

 

Curt squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. 

 

“What are you on about, now, old pal,” he whispered, trying to ignore the closeness that was very quickly stealing his breath. 

 

Owen was staring at him, and it was suddenly too much for Curt. It was both a blessing and a curse to be the subject of Owen’s undivided attention. Usually, Curt would melt under the privilege of being the center of Owen’s train of thought, his knees going weak at the mere idea of Owen focusing on him and only him. In situations like this, though, Curt felt something akin to what he’d assume the poor assholes that Owen interrogated would feel. Owen’s eyes were intense, and he was notoriously difficult to read, which made it difficult to do anything other than squirm under his gaze without any idea what it was that was going on in his head.

 

Curt closed his eyes, trying to even out his breathing. He didn’t care if Owen saw. It would simply appear that he was trying to calm himself in an impossible situation. 

 

He didn’t say anything else, waiting instead for Owen to break the silence first. When he finally did reopen his eyes, he was staring into Owen’s warm brown ones. They were sharp as ever, but they were also alight with something else (did Curt dare to call it hope?).

 

“Because I’ve got a plan, dumbass,” Owen said, his jaw set with determination.

 

Curt’s eyes snapped open wider, the surprise on his face not hidden. Owen, who looked to be in considerable pain, smiled at him. 

 

When Owen didn’t spring forward to offer any more information, Curt pursed his lips. He crossed his arms, ignoring the banging on the door outside. When a gunshot rang out, he ducked instinctively, but the shot must have gotten wedged somewhere between the door and the desk they were using to barricade the door.

 

Owen, on the other hand, looked unmoved, but that might have been because he was far too exhausted to even try to get out of the way of a random bullet.

 

“What’s the plan then, O?” Curt asked, trying to keep his face neutral. “Going to clue a guy in?”

 

Instead of answering the question, Owen let his gaze slide from Curt’s face to something across the room from him. Curt followed Owen’s line of sight, his expression shifting from confused to downright amazed.

 

“Owen, I could kiss you.”

 

The words slipped from his mouth before he could stop them, but he was too flooded with relief to care. Thankfully, Owen laughed. He threw his head back and gave a proper laugh, deep and rumbling.

 

Across the room, was a window.

Chapter Text

Curt immediately got to work on the window.

 

It was small and rectangular, but Curt guessed that they’d be able to shimmy their way out. It was on the back wall, slightly off center to the left, about six feet off the ground. It was going to be difficult to get Owen up and out, but Curt knew that they’d manage.

The room they were in must have been built against a hill because Curt could see the ground right outside the window, meaning that the room they were in was actually set several feet into the ground. That, at least, meant that neither of them would have to suffer a high fall during this escape, as the bottom of the window was only a few inches above the dirt outside.

 

Curt hated the idea of falling. Something about the idea of him or Owen falling to their death sent his skin crawling. 

 

He shook his head. He focused back on the window.

 

First, he grabbed one of the old, wood chairs from the corner where the desks had been originally shoved. He slammed it into the ground, ignoring the noise it made that joined in with the cacophony of thundering coming from the Russians banging on the door. A single leg broke away, and Curt disregarded the rest of the chair in favor of picking up that piece. He turned to the window.

 

Curt took a deep breath, stepped up on an unbroken chair, and then swung like he was aiming for the outfield. His childhood baseball coach would have been so proud. The glass shattered outwards, mostly sparing Curt from any stray shards, but one or two flew back towards him, nicking his hands and arms. Luckily, his face was left untouched, and none of the cuts looked too deep.

 

He took his jacket off, and wrapped it around his hand. He used the new protection around his exposed hand to break away the rest of the glass. No use leaving shards along the edges of the tiny space they had to squeeze through. 

 

Curt turned back to Owen, checking his gun as he hopped off the chair and made his way back across the room. He had three bullets left, which was not enough to take out all of their pursuers but rather enough to stave off their imminent demise.

 

Owen was slouched over, using the wall as a brace. Curt ignored the way it made his skin prickle. Owen wasn’t dead, yet, and Curt was going to keep it that way. 

 

He gripped Owen by the upper arm and helped ease him up.

 

“Come on now, O,” he coaxed, immediately taking Owen’s weight as he slumped into his side for support. “I gotta get you out first, then I’ll make my way up.”

 

He paused, glancing back out the window. On the one hand, Curt wanted to go first so that he could make sure the coast was clear. No use shoving Owen out of the frying pan and into the fire—more specifically the line of fire. On the other hand, Owen was too weak to stand on his own, let alone climb his way out of a window that was just above eye level without Curt helping boost him out. 

 

There really was no choice. He’d have to do his best to check the outdoor surroundings before he hoisted Owen out.

 

Curt helped maneuver Owen, who was, to his credit, doing his best to hobble along beside him, over to the window.

 

“Alright,” Curt said, quickly shifting so that Owen was looking at him instead of right next to him. He kept a hand under his arm on his uninjured side, clutching his back to help hold him up. “This isn’t going to be fun.”

 

Owen sent him a wicked grin. If it were anyone else, Curt might have thought that blood loss was making him delirious. But this was Owen, and Owen seemed inexplicably excited by the prospect of dangerous, odd jobs. His Owen always did walk the line between crazy and brilliant.

 

Curt paused. 

 

Since when had he started referring to Owen as ‘his’? He shook his head, choosing to ignore that thought in favor of dissecting it later. Now was not exactly the time to be hung up on why (and when) he had begun to attach possession to Owen. 

 

Curt had more important things to worry about… like shoving Owen Carvour out of a window.

 

Curt’s jaw flexed, and he shifted once more to get a better grip on Owen’s shoulder.

 

“Think you can lift me?” Owen asked, after a moment of silence. He was teasing, of course, and it felt so natural that Curt found himself grinning at him as if this was some other normal mission, as if this wasn’t some giant cluster fuck of a time.

 

Curt took a deep breath in. If he got out of this, Cynthia might actually kill him anyway for screwing up this bad. He went and got himself and another agent caught.

 

“Oh, please, of course I can.”

 

Curt helped Owen step up onto the chair he’d set up beneath the window. It was a precarious position, partially because the chair groaned and creaked beneath their weight, enough so that Curt worried it might actually give out but mostly because it meant that Curt and Owen had to press their bodies together. 

 

For poor Curt, who was trying very, very hard to continue to think with his head and not his … well, his other head, he supposed.

 

He knelt a little, ignoring the way his cheek kept contact with Owen’s body the whole time, from chest to stomach to hip. Curt wrapped his arms around Owen’s legs, just under his butt, and lifted him up with a grunt and little warning. Owen did his best to help guide himself out the window.

 

Curt assumed Owen had made it to the ledge when some of the weight seemed to lift away. It was much easier after that to lift him.

 

Physically at least.

 

Mentally, Curt was more than mostly checked out, though. This had everything to do with the fact that Owen Carvour’s ass was now in his face as he helped shove him out into the courtyard. 

 

Curt knew his love was illegal, but—goddamn—an ass like Owen Carvour’s should be illegal, too.

 

Curt adjusted his grip on Owen’s thighs, trying not to stare, and gave another harsh shove upwards. Owen tumbled forward, mostly out of the window as he rolled into the grass.

 

At that moment, there was a loud slam behind Curt, and the whole room shuddered. He risked a glance back and saw that one of the desks had been shoved over and that the door was barely cracked open. Their assailants would be in the room soon. Curt gritted his teeth. He would not die here. 

 

He’d promised Owen that he wouldn’t leave him alone.

 

Curt Mega always kept his promises.

 

He returned his attention to the window quickly. Owen had moved out of the way, and he had rolled over onto his stomach so that he could look in to see Curt’s progress. Curt shifted his weight, his hands gripping the edging of the window.

 

The chair he was stood on gave another creak, another groan, and then it gave out completely. 

 

“Curt!” Owen shouted, moving quickly to grab for Curt’s arms.

 

Curt let out a gasp, but his grip held strong. He had kept his hands and elbows on the window frame, and it left him half dangling with his feet about a foot off of the ground. 

 

There was another loud noise. Curt didn’t dare look; he couldn’t. 

 

“It’s fine,” Curt said, trying to brace his toes against the wall to help give himself something to push off of. It didn’t work very well. “Get clear, Owen, they’re almost in.”

 

“Like hell,” Owen spat out, catching Curt off guard. It wasn’t an overwhelmingly outlandish request. Agents often sent their partners off if it meant keeping them safe from an incoming and imminent threat. Owen leaned in, gripping Curt by the collar with all the strength he could muster. He was so close that Curt could feel Owen’s breath on his face as he spoke his next words. “We’ve made it this far, Curt, together.”

 

Curt scanned his pale face, astounded by the resolve that met his gaze. 

 

The pounding outside the door was much louder now, and Curt heard the desk he’d stacked upon another tumble over onto the ground. The Russians had almost broken into the room, he knew, which meant they didn’t have much time.

 

For a second, it didn’t matter, though, because Owen was close enough to kiss, and he looked like he might even lean in.

 

Curt was frozen, like a deer in headlights beneath his gaze.

 

Owen did not lean in. In fact, he did quite the opposite. He leaned (or perhaps the better description was threw) himself backwards, using his weight to help pull Curt up enough that his hips were underneath him against the window frame. It was uncomfortable at best, but he wasn’t hanging anymore, at least. He wiggles the rest of the way out, right in time for the sound of the door being finally kicked in to shatter the still morning air.

 

Curt scrambled to his feet, not daring to look back. He practically yanked Owen up with him, ignoring the way Owen grimaced. 

 

“Time to go,” he said. He didn’t wait for a response. Instead, he started running and dragged Owen along with him.

 

They had no plan. Curt realized this as soon as they took the first step. They had no idea where they were or what to do next, other than run, run, run. He was getting really tired of feeling like he was missing out on most of the information in this situation. 

 

The courtyard was grassy, a small patch of land between two arms of the building. Curt guessed it was because the building was shaped like a ‘U’, and they were in the middle of it. Luckily, they were alone, for the most part, save for the few stray shots that zinged last them as they ran.

 

Those idiots couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, Curt reckoned.

 

They continued running, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the building as possible. Curt was aiming for the treeline, which was just beyond the road that ran adjacent to the building.

 

“Car, Curt,” Owen said suddenly, his voice hoarse and quiet but excited. “ Car .”

 

Curt’s head snapped around, searching for what his partner had seen. 

 

About fifteen meters in front of them and a little to their left, was a small black sedan parked on a small patch of dead grass right next to the road. Curt could have cried.

 

Owen, on the other hand, actually was crying, albeit silently. Curt did a double take when he noticed but said nothing.

 

“Almost there, O” Curt said, squeezing Owen’s torso with the arm wrapped around his chest to help support him. “We’re going to fucking make it.”

 

They made it to the car without any issue. The men had stopped shooting at them, meaning they’d be spilling out into the courtyard to come after them soon. Thankfully, the car doors were unlocked, which saved them the time of breaking the windows to unlock the doors manually. 

 

“Give me thirty seconds to hotwire this baby,” Owen said after helping Owen settle into the passenger’s side. He shut the door, then scrambled around to the other side of the car. He practically flung the door open, but he didn’t get into the seat right away. Instead, he ducked beneath the center counsel. He pulled away the paneling and got to work figuring out the wiring.

 

Owen kept watch, dutifully, but he didn’t need to wait very long. Curt had been very good at hot wiring cars well before he even made it into A.S.S as an intern straight out of high school. This was his natural element.

 

The wires in his hands sparked against one another. The engine roared to life. Curt shifted, settling into the driver’s seat with a whoop. He floored the gas, and the car shot off down the road like a rocket. 

 

They’d made it out.

Chapter Text

Curt worried that he might crash the car.

 

It wasn’t because he was a bad driver, per se, although he was definitely not the best driver. No, the reason he feared that he might accidentally run them off the road was the fact that Owen—Owen Carvour, an intelligent spy and notorious marksman with a wonderful ass that Curt had gotten an up close and personal look at only a few minutes ago—was holding his hand. Curt’s heart was beating so fast that he wondered if Owen could heat it, too.

 

To be completely honest, Owen was actually only holding his wrist. Curt needed one hand on the wheel and one hand on the clutch so that he could change gears. That meant that his hand wasn’t exactly free to hold, but that was beside the point. Owen was holding Curt’s hand. 

 

Sort of.

 

Owen had been very delicate about asking if that was alright. He had seemed so nervous, but that could have been because he was still shook up about being tortured for three days and barely escaping with his life only minutes earlier. 

 

They had been in the car for maybe half an hour, mostly silent, when Owen had looked over at Curt shyly. It was an expression that Curt was not used to seeing on Owen’s face, and he did a double take (that marked the first time he almost crashed the car). 

 

“Can I…?” He had said, his voice soft and shaky. Curt had looked between Owen and the road, doing his best to divide his attention between the two. 

 

“Can ya what, O?”

 

He hadn’t understood until Owen’s hand, warm despite the cold air both outside and within the car, had slipped over his wrist. It was tentative, gentle, a touch so soft that it barely grazed skin. Curt had repressed a shiver.

 

It made sense why Owen wanted the contact. They had been chained just far enough apart that he’d been unable to touch Curt except for the time that he’d managed to reach his ankle. Even then, they had both been sprawled out in an odd position, and Curt hadn’t been able to see Owen. Holding his wrist gave him immediate access to Curt’s warmth and his pulse. He knew that it would ground Owen to feel the blood hammering beneath his skin, to feel that Curt was still alive right beside him, but Curt feared it might give away his elevated heartbeat. 

 

The small touch, which Owen had probably considered comforting and platonic and nothing more, had been enough to send Curt’s mind over the edge. He had imagined lacing his fingers with Owen’s, imagined how it would feel to let those long, slender fingers interlock with his own. He knew those fingers, knew that hand. He’d seen that hand choke the life out of an attacker; he’d seen those fingers pull the trigger on a pistol. Rooted deep within the violence of their job was an intimacy, one that Curt both acknowledged and admired. He had wondered what it would feel like to take that hand in his own, to give it something to grip other than a handgun, to give it something to hold rather than to hold down. Curt had imagined feeling the gentleness of Owen’s touch, a juxtaposition against what he knew those hands to be capable of. 

 

Curt had swallowed thickly, realizing that he had not given an answer and that Owen was blinking at him. Unable to form the words, Curt had just nodded his head vigorously. 

 

Owen held his wrist like a lifeline.

 

That had been about twenty minutes ago, meaning that they’d been driving for nearly an hour. Curt was exhausted, and he could tell that Owen was getting ready to pass out to. Unfortunately, neither of them could yet relax, especially as they drove along the twisting back roads of rural Russia.

 

“Owen,” Curt said, finally. “We need to make a plan.”

 

Owen sat straighter, wincing as he nodded, and his grip tightened around Curt’s wrist momentarily before his hand fell away. For a half second, Curt cursed at himself. If he’d have known that his words would make Owen let go, he wouldn’t have said anything at all. Alas, the damage was done. There lingered a warmth where Owen’s hand had been, and Curt suppressed the ache he felt in his chest from the loss of contact.

 

“Do you know where we are?” Owen asked, glancing out the window to observe their surroundings flying past. 

 

Curt nodded, his eyes returning to the road in front of him. The roads had changed from winding back trails into wide open straights, and Curt was taking full advantage of that. He pressed his toe into the accelerator a little more, taking a second to switch gears. He didn’t know where they were going, but they sure as hell were going to get there fast.

 

“Kalinin,” Curt said, matter-of-factly. He didn’t say anything more until Owen’s head snapped to look at him in confusion. Curt explained, “we passed a sign a ways back.”

 

Owen nodded, falling deep into thought. He ran a hand through his hair and adjusted how he was sitting in the passenger's seat so that he was facing Curt a little more. 

 

“If we can get to a pay phone, I can call an old buddy of mine that I know to be in Novgorod.”

 

“Novgo—? What’s in Novgorod?” Curt asked, ignoring the absolute miracle that Owen knew someone way out here in the middle of nowhere Russia.

 

“It’s need to know, according to MI6.” Owen shifted again, this time sitting straighter, as if the very mention of his agency sent him spiraling back into the formalities of his work. Curt fought to keep himself relaxed. Seeing Owen tense always made him feel tense.

 

“Right,” he said through gritted teeth, trying and failing to hide his thoughts about Owen leaving him in the dark, “and I don’t need to know.”

 

He heard Owen sigh more than he saw it, and then he felt Owen’s fingers wrap around his wrist once more. He squeezed once, a sign of reassurance. Curt’s skin tingled at the touch, and he couldn’t stop the shiver that ran down his spine. He did his best to play it off, and he hoped Owen didn’t notice.

 

“Apparently neither do I,” Owen said, after a moment of silence. Curt’s surprise must have been very visual, however, because Owen quickly elaborated. “I said I knew he was there, not that I knew why.”

 

“Think he can get us some supplies?” Curt asked. 

 

“If nothing else, he can get me a meet up with an MI6 handler, who can—” Owen rubber a finger over the back of Curt’s knuckles absentmindedly. Curt’s breathing hitched, and he squeezed the wheel tighter with his other hand. The car swerved for a moment, until Curt regained both his composure and control of the car. “ Jesus, Curt, drive like a normal person, please.”

 

Curt knew that Owen wasn’t religious. He must have really scared him if he’d gotten him to swear to a god he didn’t believe in. Curt grinned, feigning innocence. To his credit, he was very good at playing off his mistakes around Owen as caused by literally anything other than his secret arousal. 

 

“Relax, we're only going twenty over the speed limit.”

 

“Oh, is that it?” Owen asked sarcastically, sounding very much like his old self. He sent Curt a teasing smile, blinking lazily at Curt through his eyelashes. Curt knew that smile all too well. “Now, how would Cynthia feel about you breaking the law like this. Isn’t it against her infamous rules.”

 

“Don’t use rule number twenty eight against me, I don’t normally break it,” Curt said in response to the chiding, but he was still grinning. “Besides, she’d be more concerned about me breaking rule number forty four.”

 

Curt knew that Owen had a limited understanding (at best) of Cynthia’s rulebook, but that didn’t mean Curt did. No, Curt had been lectured more than once about following Cynthia’s rules, lest he get himself killed. 

 

“Which is?” Owen asked, playing right into the trap Curt had set.

 

Curt let a wicked smile slide across his face, and he turned to Owen with a wink.

 

“Never let Curt Mega drive.”

 

He floored the accelerator. 

 

The car lurched forward even faster, and Owen was pushed back into his seat. He gripped tighter to Curt’s wrist, sending him a pointed look. Beneath that outward annoyance, though, was a glimmer of amusement that Curt immediately recognized. Owen was just as much of an adrenaline junkie as Curt was, no matter how much he tried to hide it behind his propriety and flowery language.

 

“I feel like I should be writing these down, how on earth do you remember all of those?” Owen asked, regaining some of his composure. He relaxed his grip on Curt’s wrist once more. 

 

“Eventually, you’ve heard them yelled at you enough that you just,” Curt paused, shrugging, “remember.”

 

It was true of course. Cynthia had started yelling at him the day he’d been hired, and she had never actually stopped. At this point, he doubted anything less than death would stop her from screaming at him all the time about what he fucked up, although, in all fairness, Curt had seen her yell at agents posthumously as well, all the way up until the funeral, where her yelling turned to something closer to sobbing.

 

Cynthia’s rules, while mostly arbitrary and excessive, existed for a reason, Curt knew. She was, at her core, a deeply emotional person when it came to her agents, even if the most prominent emotion was anger (did violent count as an emotion?). Nearly every rule that Cynthia had, aside from a handful of common sense ones, had been added to her rulebook because of the death of an agent that she felt could have been prevented. 

 

“I suppose that’s fair,” Owen said, drawing Curt out of his thoughts. He pointed out the window to a small gas station in the distance that was steadily getting closer. “Pull over at that petrol station. I'd wager they have a pay phone.”

 

Curt nodded. At this point, they could only hope that Owen’s contact came through.

 

Chapter Text

Before they could leave to pick up the money that Owen’s old friend had left at a drop point for them, they needed to clean themselves up. 

 

It would not be very inconspicuous to arrive in Moscow, the location wherein they would meet Owen’s friend, covered in two and three day old blood and wearing dirty and tattered clothes. They made quick work of stealing clothes, piecing together halfway cohesive outfits, from some of the vehicles left unlocked in the parking lot. 

 

Then, they’d both crammed into the tiny, cement bathroom to get changed and cleaned up. 

 

It was a slow process, especially since they were both beyond exhausted and in severe pain. Neither moved very quickly because they risked bumping elbows if they did; even with Curt shoved up next to the toilet and Owen practically sitting on the sink, they had very little room to move in the restroom. Curt tried not to think about the dirt and grime that was surrounding them, but the pungent smell that seemed to ooze from the walls made it difficult to ignore the state of the room they were in. He had his back to the wall, one foot on either side of the toilet, trying to give Owen, who was lankier and taller, more room to get himself changed. 

 

Curt mostly kept his eyes on the floor full of dirty paper towels, on his hands that were cracked with blood from his wrists, on literally anything other than Owen Carvour, who was stripping beside him. Curt, hugging his arms around his chest, hid himself as best as possible from Owen, though he knew that the other man likely didn’t give a damn what Curt looked like without his slacks on. 

 

Even still, Curt was self conscious. Who wouldn’t be when standing next to Owen Carvour?

 

Owen was incredibly fit, partially because his job was very physically demanding but mostly because he took great pride in taking care of his body. Rarely did anything beside chicken, salad, and tea pass his lips, a clear juxtaposition to Curt’s diet of whatever he could quickly shove in his mouth before or during a mission. It was extremely unfair for Owen to be so goddamn attractive, especially when Curt was struggling already to keep his feelings to himself while seeing Owen wearing nothing but his jeans as he slowly peeled his shirt away from his body.

 

 Curt changed quickly so as to hide his very obvious arousal. He left the scraps of fabric around his wrists that they’d used to dress his wounds; the blood had not yet seeped through, and he didn’t want to bother trying to rewrap them. He felt more comfortable once he’d switched into a new pair of jeans, a baggy t-shirt, and a leather jacket, all of which luckily fit well enough. He felt that the clothes covered him in more ways than one, giving him a degree of separation. No longer did he risk skin on skin contact should they brush, nor did he risk Owen accidentally seeing the way his entire body was tensed up. He could calm down and steady his breathing, now, no problem.

 

Unfortunately, the world just seemed out to get Curt Mega.

 

“Curt, would you…” Owen trailed off. His voice was soft. Curt turned to look at him, careful to keep his gaze steady with Owen’s, not daring to let it drop any lower, and he was shocked to see that Owen’s face was burning a bright red from what Curt assumed was embarrassment. He held up a shirt halfheartedly. “I can't really stand up long enough for this.”

 

Curt cursed at himself. He should have realized that Owen would need help.

 

Owen, despite his fantastic muscles and slim physique, looked rather worse for wear, especially now that the skin around where he’d been quite literally on fire only a day previously was beginning to blister. He was leaning heavily against the sink, favoring his unbroken leg, which should have been the first sign that Owen was struggling. Curt could have kicked himself for not noticing if he actually had room to move. 

 

“Yeah, of course,” Curt answered quickly, trying to silently convey that this was nothing to be embarrassed of, that Owen was allowed to be vulnerable. Curt first helped Owen undo the shoddy bandaging that Curt had done that morning because it wasn’t covering the entirety of the wound. It was stuck to Owen’s skin due to the dried blood, meaning that Curt had to reopen some of the half healed blisters that were spread down the left side of Owen’s torso. Owen barely flinched, but it pained Curt to see his nearly imperceptible grimaces.

 

He reached behind Owen, slowly so as not to startle him, and grabbed a paper towel from the dispenser on the wall just beside Owen’s head. He wet the towel in the sink Owen was leaning on and then, gingerly, he dabbed at the wound. He knew better than most that injuries needed to be treated to the best of one's ability should they want to survive. He was careful, keeping one hand just under Owen’s armpit to hold him steady. 

 

Owen let out a strangled gasp when Curt’s fingers connected with his skin, most likely from the pain of Curt pulling at the skin around the wound, and he let his head fall back as he closed his eyes tightly. Curt whispered an apology, but he had to keep going until the entire wound was cleaned up as best as possible.

 

Once he had finished, Curt rewrapped Owen’s side with what was left of his own old shirt, the one Curt had been wearing since their abduction. It wasn’t clean, by any means, but it was better than leaving Owen’s wound exposed.

 

Curt helped Owen pull on his t-shirt, ignoring the pounding of blood in his ears. He’d made it through this with little issue. It was fine.

 

Owen, although it seemed impossible, flushed an even deeper shade of red as he refocused his attention from the ceiling to Curt. 

 

“I… uh… I can’t …?” Owen said, voice dripping with embarrassment. He was already gripping the sink like a lifeline, half hanging off of it to stop himself from falling over, but now his knuckles turned white as he pressed his hands into it even more so. Curt raised an eyebrow, confused, until Owen held up the pair of jeans they’d stolen from a car outside for him. 

 

Oh , Curt thought. Then, he blinked, and his eyes went wide. Oh.

 

He took a deep breath and then forced a reassuring smile onto his face. Owen normally had no issues with much of the intimacies of their job, like sharing small hiding places or cramped hotel rooms with him, but he seemed embarrassed by his need for assistance in this instance. Curt wanted him to feel comfortable, to know that Curt would never judge him for or think less of him because of anything, especially asking for help.

 

“It’s not a problem, O,” he barely whispered. Noticing how quiet he sounded, he cleared his throat. At a normal volume, he continued , “Do you think you could sit on the toilet?”

 

Owen nodded. Curt helped him maneuver past him and over to the tiny toilet. Curt used his foot to kick the toilet seat closed because his hands were busy helping hold Owen up. Owen sat awkwardly, with his damaged leg straight out while he tucked his good one under him, firmly planted on the ground. Curt left the pair of jeans on the sink, knowing he would need both hands to get Owen out of his current pair of jeans first. 

 

Curt got to work.

 

He started with Owen’s shoes, the well and truly ruined boots he’d been wearing since their capture, first by unlacing them and then pulling them off one at a time as he knelt beside Owen. He placed them behind him, side by side, to get them out of the way.

 

Before he helped get Owen out of his jeans, he paused, looking up at Owen. Owen had his eyes screwed shut and his face turned away from Curt, still burning bright red. He looked sickly, and he was covered in sweat. There was still blood on his face from his beating. Curt would need to clean that up, too. He gave Owen’s ankle a squeeze.

 

“Do you want to undo your pants?” He offered, knowing it would give Owen a sense of control in the situation. Not that he wasn’t already in control—Curt would stop whatever he was doing at a moment's notice if Owen asked and would get the job done as slow or as fast as he wanted. 

 

Owen nodded vigorously, then got to work unbuttoning and unzipping his jeans. Curt waited patiently, his eyes lowered out of respect, keeping his gaze on the ground. When he heard Owen stop shuffling, Curt lifted his gaze to meet Owen’s. Owen nodded again, but Curt could see that he was swallowing thickly, still mortified that he required help with something like this. 

 

Curt gave him another smile, trying to reassure his partner, but it was tight lipped. He felt the heat rising to his face, too, as well as other areas of his body that had no right to be active right then. Owen needed him to be a good partner, to be a caring friend. Curt needed to get a grip.

 

He shifted so that he was on his knees instead of squatting, and he leaned forward so that he could grab Owen’s jeans by the belt loops. It was scarily similar to the feeling of holding his hips, and Curt choked down a breath. Slowly, Owen shimmied out of the pants while Curt pulled them off of him. After he’d gotten the jeans past his butt, it was mostly smooth sailing. He tugged the pants off the rest of the way and—

 

Owen hissed.

 

Curt froze. 

 

Curt had moved too quickly; he must have accidentally moved in such a way that put pressure on Owen’s knee. He looked up Owen, patiently and apologetically waiting to be told that he could continue. 

 

“Sorry,” Owen said, panting. He was using the baggy t-shirt he was wearing to cover himself as much as possible, and Curt understood how uncomfortable it must have been to be sitting there in his boxers, especially since he was in pain. 

 

“We’re almost there,” Curt said, trying to coax him into relaxing. It didn’t work, but Owen did nod at him to continue. 

 

More carefully this time, Owen pulled the pants the rest of the way off. Upon revealing the state of Owen’s injured knee, Curt sat back on his heels, his jaw falling open.

 

Owen’s leg was covered in purple, green, and red, a sickening mix of bursts of color. There were three distinct groupings of bruising, which Curt assumed was due to the three hits Owen had taken from the crowbar. The first was just above his knee cap on the outside of his thigh. The second, just below the kneecap on the side and back of his calf. The third, the worst of them all, was gathered around his kneecap, and his knee looked very much like it could be broken.

 

“Curt?” Owen asked softly. Curt shook his head, shutting his jaw with an audible click. 

 

“We need to get a brace for your leg, this looks bad Owen,” Curt said in a rush, looking between Owen’s tired eyes and his knee. 

 

“We can pick one up when we get to Moscow,” Owen said.

 

Curt didn’t dare argue with him; he sounded like he was a breath away from breaking. Instead, he turned around, taking the moment to steel himself, and reached up to grab Owen’s new pair of jeans off the sink. 

 

It was easier to get him in pants than out of them, Curt found. Once he’d gotten the jeans pooled around his ankles, Curt helped him stand. Owen leaned against the sink once more, and Curt started pulling the jeans up. He felt Owen shiver and quickened his pace; it was damn cold in that bathroom, he knew, and it definitely didn’t help that he still had exposed skin. He finally got the jeans over Owen’s hips. He switched so that he was holding Owen up from under his arms, so that Owen could button and zip up his own pants. 

 

Curt kind of liked this position. They were almost hugging. He imagined Owen’s arms around him, safe and warm, and—

 

He shook his head. This was not the time to dwell on schoolboy crushes.

 

Owen finished getting his pants situated, and Curt let him lean back against the sink. He sank to his knees again, ignoring the implications of him on his knees right in front of Owen, and grabbed Owen’s boots. He helped him slip his feet into the boots one at a time, before lacing them up.

 

He stood, preparing to leave, when Owen caught his elbow.

 

“You’ve got,” he gestured to Curt’s face with a small smile, “blood all over you.”

 

Curt reached up to touch his face, finding that he could feel the dried blood above his lip and on his chin; it must have been from when his nose had collided with the floor on the second day of hell. 

 

Owen, who also had blood on his face still, just above his eyebrow from a cut on his forehead and on his jaw from a scrape that ran from his ear to his chin, was leaning against the sink, half sitting on it in fact, so Curt wasn’t prepared when he struggled to turn around. He almost slipped, but Curt moved quickly to help support him by placing his hands under Owen’s arms again. 

 

“Steady, O,” he said. Owen continued reaching behind him, and he eventually grabbed a paper towel. He used the newfound support via Curt to turn towards the sink, and he let the water run over the towel for several seconds. He shifted back, now facing Curt.

 

“Hold still,” Owen said. 

 

Then, leaning against the sink and letting Curt hold the rest of his weight to keep him upright, he lifted the towel to Curt’s face and started to gently wipe at the dried blood. 

 

Frozen in shock, Curt could do nothing other than watch as Owen did so with a look of concentration on his face. Owen’s other hand reached up to hold Curt’s chin and tilted his head to the side so that he was at a better angle. Curt had to suppress his moan as those fingers he’d long been longing would touch him ran across his jaw. Owen’s thumb brushed over his lips, briefly, so quickly that Curt worried he’d imagined it, and Curt closed his eyes. He didn’t know what else to do.

 

Eventually, Owen hummed, satisfied with his work. Curt reopened his eyes and gave him a tense smile. Then, he shifted so that Owen was holding on to his side instead of facing him. It was Curt’s turn to grab and wet a paper towel, which he then used to dab away the dried blood all over Owen’s face. He allowed himself only the time it took to help clean Owen up to think about the feeling of Owen’s skin beneath his fingertips. His hand prickled where it made contact with Owen’s face, and Curt bit down on his lip to keep himself grounded.

 

Finally, they were both (for the most part) cleansed of the previous days’ horrors.

 

They moved at a quick and steady pace after that. They wadded their clothes up and shoved them into the small waste bin. Owen put on the cargo jacket that they’d borrowed (stolen) for him and, together, they hobbled into the cold, outdoor air. It was nearly mid day, already, and they still hadn’t eaten. Curt knew he needed to remedy that.

 

He left Owen in the car with the gun, trusting that he could take of himself despite his injury, and he quickly ran into the small shop connected to the rest stop. He selected a pastry and some fruit for himself and a sandwich and an apple for Owen, as well as four water bottles.

 

He had found a couple of rubles in his pants pocket and, fortunately, it was just barely enough to purchase what he had picked off the shelf. He left the shop without a word to the clerk who checked him out, although that was fairly normal practice in Russian anyway, and got into the car with Owen.

 

Then, they drove the remaining distance to Moscow.

 

The car ride was four hours long. 

 

They spoke about the mission at length while they ate their food, piecing together what they could remember between the two of them. 

 

They knew it was a joint MI6 and A.S.S. mission, one that required no undercover work. Owen remembered that they were trying to steal something from the compound, blueprints or plans maybe, and Curt remembered that Cynthia had warned him (threatened him might be a better description) that screwing up was not an option because that would get them killed.

 

When the blurry memories made their heads ache and they tired of talking about being in their own personal hell for the past three days, they settled into a comfortable silence. Every now and again, Owen’s hand would reach out, touch Curt’s wrist for a half second, and then fall away. It was as if Owen needed to be reminded that Curt was still beside him, that he was still alive. Curt didn’t mind.

 

Eventually, Owen slipped into sleep, though he wasn’t sleeping very deeply, Curt knew. It was one trick of his that Curt envied, the way that Owen could let himself drift but still be able to shoot awake at the first sign of danger. Curt usually slept like the dead, which had gotten him into trouble a couple of times.

 

Eventually, they made it to Moscow.

 

Owen’s contact had left them enough money in a bag at a drop point in a mailbox to spend the night in a hotel room and to purchase supplies. They had ditched the car a little ways into the city, as well, knowing that it was likely going to be tracked down. 

 

After that, they took a bus even deeper into the city. In the heart of Moscow was a motel, one that looked far too dingy to be frequented by anyone of importance or affluence. It was perfect. Curt helped support Owen into the building, right up to the help desk.

 

Curt asked the man for a room for the night, settled payment, and then acquired their key. He did all of the talking because Owen’s Russian accent was like something out of a bad Hollywood film, and it would give them away as foreigners immediately. 

 

Finally, after trudging up three flights of steps (the elevator looked far from safe) that left both of them panting, they made it to their room.

 

Curt moved quickly to unlock the door, and then he helped guide Owen into the small room. Instead of bothering to close the door politely, Curt locked it shut behind them, ignoring the way it slammed. As soon as they reached the bed in the center of the room, Curt let Owen drop on to it. 

 

He wanted to fall in beside him, but he restrained himself. He looked around the room, but there was only the bed, a desk, and the hallway that led to the bathroom. It would be alright; he supposed he could sleep on the floor.

 

Owen, who was curled up on the bed already, watched Curt through only half-opened eyes, clearly aware of the turmoil going on behind Curt’s neutral expression. Owen was exhausted, and the way Curt was fretting couldn’t have helped. 

 

Curt glanced around the room once more, uncertain what he hoped he’d find but nevertheless disappointed when he still found no other option.

 

“I can sleep on the floor," Curt said, trying to play it off like no big deal. Unfortunately (fortunately?), Owen knew him too well.

 

"No," Owen said, in that matter-of-fact tone that he always used when he didn’t want to argue.

 

“Owen, really, I—"

 

"Get in the damn bed, Mega."

 

Curt hesitated, but the allure of a warm bed and a good nights rest won him over. He gave in and laid down beside Owen on the side that had been left open half or him—the left side. Owen always trusted Curt to cover his left flank; it made sense that, since they’d be so close in proximity, Curt would naturally fit better on the left.

 

He gave Owen plenty of space, but the bed was small. Still, he curled into himself, trying to make himself as small as possible. 

 

Owen sighed, reaching out to grab Curt’s wrist. It seemed that his wrist was Owen’s new favorite part of him, and Curt didn’t mid the dull ache that came with Owen touching his poorly wrapped wounds. Owen was holding on to him of his own volition. 

 

"Relax, Mega,” Owen said quietly. "i'm not going to bite."

 

"I know,” Curt said, his voice just as soft as Owen’s. He stared up at the ceiling. The room was the sort of grayish black that came with a setting sun. It was really only early evening, but they’d been go, go, going for so long that both men were ready to pass out.

 

"Then why is your pulse so quick?"

 

Curt didn’t answer right away. What was he supposed to say?

 

Oh, don’t worry about that, Owen, it’s just my natural response to laying beside you on a bed, to sharing a blanket with you in the dark, to you holding on to my wrist like I’m something special, something to stay in contact with.

 

No, he couldn’t say any of that without risking the spillage of his secret. 

 

 “I don’t know,” he finally settled upon saying.

 

Owen hummed, but there was something in his tone that sounded closer to disappointment than understanding. Curt tried to ignore it.

 

"Goodnight, Curt."

 

"Night, Owen."

 

Eventually, the warmth of Owen beside him and the consistency of the dark around them lulled Curt into sleep. 

Chapter Text

Curt awoke before the sun rose.

 

He was laying on his stomach, and there was a weight across his back that he didn’t recognize. He turned his head, trying to blink the grogginess out of his eyes. When he saw Owen beside him, Curt froze and his breath caught in his throat. 

 

Owen was laying on his side, facing Curt, still very much asleep, and his face was only inches from Curt’s face now that he’d turned his head. Curt could feel his breath mingling with his own, and he quickly realized that the weight across his back was, in fact, Owen’s arm. 

 

Curt allowed himself a few moments to stare. His eyes traced over Owen’s lips, over the scrapes on his face, over the scar in his eyebrow that he’d gotten in a bar fight, of all things. A smile rose to Curt’s lips as he took in the serene expression on Owen’s face. His partner rarely looked so peaceful when he was awake; he carried his tension in his face, Curt knew. He often joked with Owen that scowling like that would give him wrinkles. 

 

As if that would matter.

 

Owen would be beautiful to him no matter what he grew to look like, no matter how many scars he collected—and he had a very large collection, indeed. It hadn’t taken long for Curt to come to terms with the fact that he would never be able to love anyone other than Owen Carvour. He didn’t care that it wasn’t right, that it wasn’t legal, that his love likely would never be reciprocated. 

 

Owen had Curt’s heart in the palm of his hand, no matter the fact that he didn’t know it. 

 

Slowly, Curt removed himself from the bed, careful not to move Owen’s arm too much for fear of waking him. After he’d successfully shimmied out of bed, he stood and stretched, ignoring the pang in his chest from the loss of contact with Owen. He was still wearing the clothes that they’d stolen the day before, he hadn’t even bothered to take his shoes off. By the looks of it, Owen hadn’t taken his ratty boots off, either, and Curt said a silent apology in his head to whatever cleaning staff would have to wash out the mud and blood stains that they’d rubbed off of there shoes and onto the white sheets in their sleep.

 

Curt crossed the room. The sun was just beginning to rise, meaning that small tendrils of light were streaming into their room through the blinds on the window. 

 

Looking around, he saw that a small pad of paper and a pen had been left out on the desk—compliments of the motel. He leaned over the desk and scrambled a note onto the first sheet of paper. 

 

Good morning, O.

Gone to make a call and get some supplies. I’ll be back soon. Please don’t hurt yourself while I’m gone.

 

Curt tore out the page quietly, folded it in half, and set it on the pillow where his head had been minutes earlier. Then, he grabbed the room key off of the table, and then, with one last look at a peaceful Owen, he left the room.

 

Pushing thoughts of Owen’s arm over him out of his mind, Curt went over what he needed to get done that morning. He needed to get them some decent food and some medical supplies, and he also needed to try and make contact with Cynthia. He’d been radio silent for at least three days, potentially a little longer. He knew that that was grounds enough for Cynthia to kick his ass (or at least scream at him until he kicked his own ass), and he was not looking forward to making that call. 

 

Food, first aid kit, Cynthia. It was a simple list, on paper. In practice, it proved a far more difficult task to manage. 

 

He found a convenience store about half a block away from their current lodgings, and it had several first aid kits to choose from. Curt selected one that came with a knee splint, knowing full well that Owen would never permit himself to wear a full on brace that could limit his range of movement, even if he needed one. 

 

Then, he walked out of the convenience store and into the soft light of the sunrise with the first aid kit in a plastic bag. Just around the corner, a small coffee shop was beginning to bustle with life. Curt made the decision to go in and get breakfast from the small shop, even if it meant risking contact with people that could remember his face later on. He still had several rubles left over, and he only needed a few to pay for the phone booths.

 

Once he’d made it through the line and up to the register, Curt ordered a coffee, black, for himself, and an earl grey tea for Owen. He ordered two pastries called crescent rolls that looked like croissants—ish. He also bought a small egg sandwich for Owen and a few strips of bacon and a handful of fruit for himself. They hadn’t eaten much in the past few days; it was perfectly justifiable for Curt to spoil them just this once.

 

With the food in one bag around his left wrist, the first aid kit in another around his right wrist, and a coffee in each hand, Curt set back out onto the street. He started walking back towards the motel. He remembered passing a pay phone earlier.

 

Eventually, he found the pay phone that he’d remembered. He set the coffees atop the phone box and the bags at his feet. Then, using the coins he’d gotten back as change from this morning’s transactions, he paid and dialed the first number he could remember off the top of his head.

 

There was a click, which was odd. Normally the phone line didn’t—

 

“Hello?” 

 

Curt never thought that he’d say it, but he was glad to hear that voice.

 

“Barb!” He said, unable to contain his excitement and relief. He took a breath to refocus himself. “It’s me, Curt.”

 

There was a second of silence on the other end, and Curt worried that the phone had shut off. He was proved wrong only a moment later.

 

“Curt! Where have you been? I’ve–we’ve all been worried sick, thinking you were dead! I thought Cynthia was going to—”

 

“Speaking of Cynthia,” Curt cut off Barb’s tirade, pulling the phone a little away from his ear so that her shouting wouldn’t damage an eardrum, “I need to talk to her. My watch got… actually, I’m not sure what happened to my watch, but I haven’t been able to contact her. Can ya patch me through?”

 

“Why didn’t you just call Cynthia?” Barb asked, though he could hear her shuffling around the room, which meant that she was preparing to do as he asked.

 

“Well,” Curt sighed, already knowing his next comment likely would be received differently than intended, “I remembered your number first.”

 

Once again, there was silence on the other end of the line. Curt could picture the expression on Barb’s face, all love struck and giddy, and he wished he could take back his comment. He’d long since resigned himself to Barb’s incessant flirting. When she wasn’t so all over him, she was a dependable friend and a genius when it came to technology. 

 

Unfortunately, she spent most of their time together practically drooling on him, leaving Curt in a very uncomfortable position. 

 

It wasn’t as if Curt was a stranger to one sided romances. He often wondered if Barb felt the same way towards him that he felt towards Owen. He wondered if she had that same sinking feeling of hopelessness that came with loving someone who could never love her back. He wondered if she also treasured those small, insignificant nothings that made up their interactions, moments that would come back in dreams and during lonely nights. He wondered if she wished for anything to happen, if the little somethings made up her everything. That was certainly how he felt about being in love with Owen.

 

“Oh,” Barb squeaked. Curt sighed again, shaking his head. He had only made her crush worse, he knew, by adding that fuel to the fire. “Patching you through now, Agent Mega.”

 

There was another half second of silence, and then Curt heard another voice that he rarely felt so excited to hear.

 

“Hello, yes, who is this?”

 

“Cynthia,” Owen barely breathed, already bracing himself for the screaming he knew was coming. 

 

“Mega! You fucking idiot! How many times do I have to tell you to check in—”

 

Curt, who was too relieved to care that she was yelling at him, cut her off without thinking.

 

“Frequently, I know. Rule number thirteen.” His voice cracked. He hadn’t realized how good it would be to hear Cynthia’s voice. Usually her yelling made his head hurt, but today the familiarity made his heart hurt.

 

Cynthia must have heard the break in his voice because she didn’t immediately berate him further for interrupting her as well as being several days late to a check in.

 

“Mega,” her voice was softer, kinder. It was still harsh and sharp, of course, but a little of the anger had dissipated. “What happened?”

 

Curt really balked at that. Normally, Cynthia would just say ‘sit rep’. Asking ‘what happened’ was about as close to asking if he was alright as he would ever hear cross her lips.

 

“Owen and I walked into an ambush at the compound. I’m alright for the most part, but Owen took a beating. We’ve got nothing, my watch must have been taken off me when the first captured us. We’re in Moscow, now, and we’re trying to piece together what happened.”

 

He knew he was leaving out several details, but he was already emotionally exhausted from the wave of relief that had washed over him after hearing both Barb’s and Cynthia’s voices. He felt himself choke up a little. 

 

It had been a rough few days.

 

“How long were you held?” 

 

Her words were direct and to the point, but Curt hesitated to answer her. Cynthia carried too much guilt when it came to her agents, and she would likely blame herself for sending Curt into an ambush unprepared. For as angry and harsh as she could be to her agents, Curt knew she was ten times worse to herself. 

 

“Three days,” he said finally. 

 

There was another silence, one that went on for several more seconds than the last bouts of quiet. It made Curt nervous. He might actually prefer the shouting to the silence. At least the shouting told him that Cynthia was there. 

 

Finally, she spoke again.

 

“Can you stay in the field?” She asked, and he imagined her looking over the mission file and chain smoking. She was being surprisingly delicate, at least in comparison to how she normally was, and Curt was having trouble reconciling it.

 

“I can. I’m not sure about Owen,” Curt answered honestly. What he didn’t say was that he was far too invested in the compound that they’d escaped at this point. He saw Luka’s twisted smile every time he closed his eyes, and he heard Owen’s screams of pain in his mind whenever he thought back to their captivity.

 

“MI6 won’t let him out of the field unless he’s dead, I’m afraid.”

 

“Are you sure?” Curt asked, trying to wrestle his voice into something that would sound, well, partner-y instead of straight-up-in-love-y. He only barely succeeded.

 

“I can call up his superiors, but those stuffy red coats don’t give a damn about anything other than results.”

 

Curt didn’t know what to say. On the one hand, he was hung up on the fact that Owen’s superiors could be so heartless when it came to their agent. On the other, the fact that Cynthia called them red coats stood out in his mind. Who used the term ‘red coat’ anymore?

 

“Of course, ma’am,” he finally settled upon saying. It was decidedly neutral.

 

“What’s your location, Mega? I’ll send in another agent to drop off supplies, mission reports, and case files,” Cynthia paused. “That is, if you’re sure about staying in the field.”

 

Curt was floored. Cynthia really must feel bad; she normally took his word at face value, and she rarely pushed to get an honest, emotional answer from anyone. He wondered if she knew that he’d been tortured. Of course, it was impossible for her to know for sure, but she’d been in the game a long time. She likely assumed that he had faced torture during his captivity, and her assumption was correct.

 

He thought of Owen. 

 

If it was true that Owen would be forced by MI6 to stay in the field, then Curt would stay right beside him. He would never leave Owen if he could help it, especially not when Owen was in such a tragic state.

 

“I’m staying.”

 

He relayed his position, exchanged goodbyes with Cynthia, and then moved to hang up. Before he could do so, he heard another click that made him pause. It was the same noise he’d heard before Barb had answered. He wondered what it was.

 

Ultimately, he decided that it was probably just the shoddy phone booth making noises because it was old and falling apart. 

 

He looped the bags at his feet back around his wrists and grabbed the coffee and tea off of the top of the phone box within the pay phone booth. Then, he headed back towards the motel. The front entryway was mostly empty, which he was thankful for, and he opted to take the stairs rather than the elevator that looked ready to give out at any moment. He took the stairs two steps at a time, feeling as if a huge pressure had been lifted from his shoulders. 

 

Cynthia was sending supplies and answers. They were going to be alright.

 

He made it to the room, but struggled for several seconds to unlock the door. He fumbled with the key in his pocket, trying very hard not to spill either beverage. Eventually, after several seconds of quiet swearing, Curt finally managed to get the key in the lock and turn it. He opened the door slowly, trying not to make too much noise just in case Owen was still asleep.

 

Owen was not still asleep.

 

No, he was, in fact, very awake, and he was sitting up straight on the bed, pointing the one gun they had on hand at Curt’s chest. Immediately upon recognizing Curt, however, Owen relaxed, and his hands dropped into his lap. Curt could hear the soft click as Owen switched the safety back on. 

 

“Room service,” Curt joked, kicking the door closed behind him. Owen looked less than amused.

 

“I could have shot you.”

 

“Ah, but you didn’t, ol’ boy,” Curt said. He crossed the room and handed Owen his cup of tea. It had cooled off considerably while Curt had been on the phone, but it still carried with it more warmth than the air around them. Curt set his coffee down on the end table beside the bed. Then he dropped the bags on the bed next to Owen. “I brought breakfast.”

 

“You know, it scared the hell out of me,” Owen said quietly. Curt looked over in surprise.

 

“What did?”

 

There was something in his eyes, something Curt could almost call sadness.

 

“I fell asleep beside you, and I woke up alone.”

 

Chapter Text

Cynthia made good on her promise. 

 

Someone knocked on their door only a few hours after Curt had called her. When Curt answered the door, gun in hand and hidden behind the door, whoever it had been had left already, but a fairly large cardboard box that was taped shut had been left out in front of their door. Atop the box was a note. 

 

Don’t die on me, or I’ll kill you, myself. 

:)

 

Curt quickly brought the box in and shut the door behind him.

 

Inside the box, there were two handguns, both fully loaded, four extra clips, two envelopes containing money and fake passports for Owen and Curt, a first aid kit that looked to be a little more comprehensive than the one that Curt had bought earlier, and a stack of papers that was at least two inches thick. Beneath the case files he found a small watch; it was a communicator, Curt realized. He slipped it on his wrist immediately, feeling much better now that the familiar weight had been returned to his wrist, even if it irritated his wounds, which he had rewrapped that morning with gauze from the first aid kit after forcing Owen to wear the knee brace. 

 

They both took a gun and their respective envelope of cash and papers, and then they separated the files and clips between themselves. Owen sat upright on the bed, his back straight and his posture rigid, while Curt made himself comfortable in the chair at the desk. It was time to figure out what had happened, and how they had ended up chained up for some soviet sadist to play with.

 

They scanned the files in relative silence, save for the occasional fluttering of paper as they shuffled to the next page. Owen had been quieter than normal, though he wasn’t exactly the most talkative between the two of them anyway, but it made Curt so nervous that he could barely focus on the files right in front of him.

 

Usually, they would banter with and gripe at one another, even when they were meant to be hunkered down, working out the intricacies of their latest mission. Curt lived for those small moments, the way Owen would bounce off of him as if they were one person telling the same joke. The jabs were playful and, every now and again, even if he tried to pretend that he was the more serious of the two, Owen would say something, in that dry, sarcastic tone of his, that would make Curt laugh so hard that his stomach hurt. Then, he would normally throw Curt a wink that got him laughing even more, but his stomach would always hurt in a different way afterwards. 

 

God, what he wouldn’t give for the silence to break, for Owen to just talk to him. The rustling of papers and stifling quiet felt like it was pressing down on him. It felt like he was trapped in the moment, like he was stuck in this limbo of turning pages and soft breathing. It was deafening; Curt felt overwhelmed.

 

“A.S.S. labeled it an Observation and Recovery mission,” he said finally, trying to break the quiet.

 

“Recovery of the blueprints to a potential nuclear bomb, yes,” Owen said, not even bothering to look up. 

 

His voice wasn’t cold or uninviting by any means, but it was tight, all formal and impersonal. Curt wondered what had happened, what he had done to bring this out in Owen. 

 

Had he done something in his sleep that had weirded Owen out? Oh, he really hoped that wasn’t the case. Maybe he really had scared Owen that bad that morning, when he’d left Owen without letting him know. It must have been awful to wake up without back up and to be utterly alone when Owen was injured enough that he could be easily overwhelmed by a few attackers. He should have left more than a note.

 

Curt watched Owen, and he tried to get the other man to look up through sheer willpower alone. It would be enough if Owen would just give him the courtesy of explaining why he was like this, although Curt knew Owen to be particularly closed off when it came to his emotions. 

 

It would be less terrible if Owen wasn’t so fucking hard to read.

 

“We landed in Russia—” Curt said, but his focus was on Owen. He floundered for a moment, returning his gaze to the page, as he’d forgotten to read the exact timeline of events.

 

“Four days ago,” Owen supplied, as his finger traced over the words in the file on his lap. Curt took that as an invitation to keep going.

 

“—yes, four days ago, thank you, meaning we’ve got approximately 12 hours unaccounted for before we woke up in the compound.”

 

Curt paused. He stood up and began to pace slowly across the room. He needed to move, needed to shake out all his nervous energy.

 

Owen finally looked up at him when he rose, and his eyes followed Curt as he paced the length of the room. Now that his attention was finally on him, Curt quickly decided that he didn’t like this either. Owen watched him with a sharpness to his expression and something in his eyes that Curt couldn’t read.

 

Owen set the file he was reading from beside him on the bed, and he stood, stretching. His gaze remained leveled on Curt.

 

“My last check in with MI6 was at around eighteen hundred hours, I believe,” Owen said.

 

He stepped forward right as Curt turned to once again cross the floor. He caught Curt by the shoulders, forcing him to stop in his tracks. Curt had no idea what he was supposed to do, what Owen was playing at or trying to achieve. He supposed his pacing must have been a source of annoyance, but Owen’s hands were steadying more so than they were halting.

 

“This log has me checking in with Cynthia at around the same time,” he said, holding up the file in his hands. The words slipped out of his mouth without much thought as his brain went a million miles a minute. 

 

Owen shook his head, but he was still holding Curt’s shoulders. They were nearly chest to chest, again, and Curt thought back to that morning. His face burned as the memory of Owen’s arm around him jumped back to the forefront of his mind.

 

They were close enough that Curt’s senses were flooded. The feeling of Owen holding him steady, surrounding him fully, made him feel warm inside. He could smell bergamot on Owen’s breath, from his tea, presumably, and, though Curt normally loathed the smell, there was something intoxicating about it when it came from Owen.

 

Curt cleared his throat. He couldn’t form any words.

 

“Alright, so we arrived, met up, checked in with our supervisors… then what?” Owen asked. He had an incredible talent for speaking low and calm but still letting his words carry and hold weight. Curt both admired that skill and envied it, but he also was invigorated by the sound. 

 

Owen released his shoulders, and Curt felt his body go cold at the loss of contact.

 

“I would assume we treated this mission like any other,” Curt said, setting the file down on the bed and looking up at Owen. “What do we normally do upon our initial meeting?”

 

He already knew the answer.

 

Owen smiled at him, the first real smile that Curt had seen all morning.

 

“We break apart the mission.”

 

It was as if something clicked. They moved in an old, familiar pattern. They had been working with one another long enough to have a rhythm that they were able to fall back into. It gave Curt a sense of relief, a sense of naturalness, especially since it was born of an unspoken intimacy between the two.

 

“I’ll clear the floor,” Curt offered. He didn’t wait for a response, though Owen gave him one.

 

“I’ll sort the case files.”

 

Curt got to work pushing the furniture away from the center of the room while Owen shuffled the stack of files around on the bed. This was routine; it was a small shred of normality despite their extreme situation. 

 

Whenever they first met up after being assigned to a case together, they always broke down their mission. 

 

Without fail, everytime they worked together, they cleared an area, usually a wall if they had tape or the floor if they were working in a pinch. The open space gave them room to create a timeline and to hash out the necessary documents. Both men preferred to have information presented to them visually and so, by creating a conglomeration of information pertinent to the case, they could lay everything out in front of them to be better examined.

 

From there, it was like electricity. Curt was constantly astounded by how well they worked together, but he supposed he should stop being surprised after so many years at each other’s side. 

 

When the center room was clear and the papers organized, they began. Curt pulled a blurry picture of some of the Russians known to be within the compound they were supposed to infiltrate. He pointed to the man on the far left, whom he recognized as Anatoly, the bastard that had beaten Owen.

 

He’d remember that face anywhere.

 

Curt placed the photo on the ground in the center.

 

“Anatoly, we know, and Luka—” 

 

“Here,” Owen said, passing Curt a photo of Luka that had been taken from very far away. Even in a black and white still, Luka’s eyes were sinister. They looked almost snake-like. Something about them was off putting, unnerving, and it wasn’t just because Curt saw those eyes in his nightmares, now. No, it was something else entirely, something instinctual that made Curt’s hair stand on end. Luka has the eyes of a man with no empathy. Curt aligned the photo above the first one, denoting that Luka was at the top of the leadership pyramid. 

 

“—Luka, we know.” Curt rubbed his jaw, crossing his arms.

 

“Luka is in charge of a sect of Russian mobsters,” Owen informed Curt as he quickly scanned a page. “Says here that he’s thought to be behind several bombings in Berlin, but there hasn’t yet been enough evidence to call for his arrest.”

 

Owen, after he finished reading, handed Curt the page to lay beside the photo of Luka. 

 

“Not that the Soviets would hand him over, anyway,” Curt said, half joking, but his words carried a bitterness to them that overshadowed the banter. Owen gave him a knowing smile.

 

“No, I rather think they wouldn’t,” he said as he nudged Curt’s shoulder. 

 

Owen was returning more to himself, a fact that spurred Curt even more into delving deeper into the case.

 

“Why were we after him, anyway?” He asked. Owen passed him a few pages from a file he had in his hand.

 

“Because he supposedly has the blueprints to a nuclear bomb that he plans to sell to the highest bidder,” Owen said, summarizing what Curt was reading on the pages he’d been handed. Curt nodded, then aligned the papers above Luka’s photo.

 

“It looks like he runs his operations out of this—pardon me,” Curt reached past Owen to grab the file that he remembered seeing blueprints in from behind him. When he had the file in hand, he rifled through it quickly and pulled out the copy of the blueprints to the compound. He pointed at the photo, “out of this compound.”

 

Curt then put it on the ground, to the side of the photos of their known assailants.

 

“Preliminary surveillance determined that, of the six entrances and exits, four were heavily guarded and frequented often.” Owen knelt beside the papers on the floor. He pointed to the exits on the east, west, and south wall. “Here, here, and here. That leaves two ways to get in.”

 

Curt knelt as well, and his knee touched Owen’s as he adjusted to get comfortable in his position. 

 

“This first exit would have been on a more direct route to the inner offices, where we have to assume the nuclear blueprints are kept,” Curt said, placing a few more pages describing the compound on the floor. 

 

Owen tutted.

 

“Yes, but the exit closest to the road would have offered us the best escape route should something have gone bad,” he reasoned. Curt shook his head, confident that his choice of entrances was the better of the two.

 

“Efficiency matters more in this op. We need…,” Curt paused. He shut his mouth with an audible click, his jaw flexing. Something about this was too familiar. 

 

“Curt?” Owen asked, startled by Curt’s change in demeanor. Curt shook his head again, but this time it was more so at himself than at Owen. 

 

He remembered taping these photos to a wall. He remembered discussing these pages before. He remembered this exact argument taking place.

 

“We've done this before,” Curt said, his voice more serious than it had been previously. “We had this exact argument before we went in.”

 

Owen seemed startled by that notion, but he kept his gaze steady as he stared at Curt. 

 

“Who won?” He asked, teasingly, but there was an edge to his voice that told Curt that this felt too familiar to him, too. 

 

“I think,” Curt stuttered as more flashes of memories flooded his mind. He remembered Owen begrudgingly nodding, content to follow Curt. He felt something bitter and heavy settle into the pit of his stomach. “I think I did. And it got us caught.”

 

There was silence for a moment as Owen processed what Curt was saying. Curt thought he might throw up. His pride, his ego, his inability to admit when someone else has a better plan had gotten them captured. It had gotten Owen tortured. The cost of Curt’s arrogance had been Owen’s safety, and—oh, god—he would not have paid had he known the price.

 

“You couldn’t have known, Curt.” 

 

Owen reached out to gently clasp him on the shoulder. They were still kneeling over their pile of papers, and Curt found himself unable to look away from the photo of Luka.

 

“This was my fault, O,” Curt said softly, refusing to meet Owen’s gaze, no matter how much he knew Owen wanted him to.

 

“Curt, love, this is very much not your fault,” Owen said, and he squeezed Curt’s shoulder tightly in reassurance. “We’d have been caught either way.”

 

That comment startled Curt enough that he looked up and over at Owen, though the image of Luka’s eyes was seared into his mind, haunting him every time he blinked.

 

“What do you mean?” Curt asked, but a deeply unsettled feeling was growing in his gut, more so than it had even when he realized the cost of his arrogance. If his assumptions were correct, if Owen was implying what he thought he was implying—

 

“Look at the evidence. It’s all around us, Curt,” Owen said, gesturing to the mess of papers that they were sitting in. “There’s only one way they could have gotten such a drop on us.

 

Curt swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. His mouth had gone bone dry, and his next words came out in a rasp. 

 

“Someone sold us out.”

Chapter Text

After several hours spent trying to piece together the past, Curt and Owen found themselves famished and exhausted.

 

They ordered room service. The newfound support of A.S.S. funds courtesy of Cynthia meant that they could now afford such things without worrying about who else they’d have to steal from to scrape by. Curt ordered a burger and some vegetables, while Owen opted for a salad with grilled chicken. 

 

It arrived in only a few minutes and, though his feelings might have been influenced by their lack of good food (or any food at all, really) in recent days, Curt thought that this hotel burger might just be the best thing that he’d ever tasted. Owen, who was sitting on the desk, his feet on the chair, while Curt sat on the bed, seemed to be of a similar mind because he devoured the food in front of him almost instantly. 

 

Curt knew that neither of them had realized how ravished they’d been. There had been work to do, so they had shoved their feelings aside in order to best work the case. It was commonplace for them to divorce themselves from their emotions, especially in times of great stress, and hunger was a feeling that they just didn’t have time for.

 

They ate in relative silence, save for the occasional sigh of content, which both men were guilty of letting slip from their lips once or twice. Dinner was done just as quick as it’d begun, and Curt was left feeling satisfied and sleepy. 

 

“I’m going to pass out,” he told Owen, his voice somewhere between a laugh and a warning. 

 

Owen shook his head, but he was smiling. He slid off the desk, finished with his meal already as well, and crossed the room, limping heavily on his bad leg. The brace had worked enough to give him more stability when walking, but it did nothing to relieve the pain of doing so. Curt watched wearily, ready to hop up at a moment's notice if Owen looked like he might topple over.

 

Owen made it to the other side of the room with little issue, and he flipped the light switch, plunging the room into near total darkness, barring what little light filtered in through the blinds from the rising moon. He then kicked his boots off and stretched before once again crossing the room so that he was leaning over the bed.

 

“Move over,” Owen said, nudging Curt’s legs that were sprawled out across the bed. He got into the bed beside him after Curt moved his legs back onto his side. Curt took a moment to take off his own shoes, then he settled into the bed, laying on his back with his hands on his stomach. 

 

“Tomorrow, we figure out where to go from here,” Curt said quietly, but he wasn’t sure if the promise was meant to reassure Owen or himself. He felt Owen shift slightly, turning onto his side to look at Curt. Curt couldn’t make out any details in the dark, but he knew enough to fill in the gaps—big brown eyes, lips drawn in a thin line, a few freckles across the nose. He had Owen’s face committed to memory.

 

“Yes,” Owen agreed, his voice barely raised above a whisper. “Tomorrow.”

 

Then, he rolled over on to his other side so that his back was facing Curt. 

 

They laid beside each other for a long time, long enough that Curt heard Owen’s breaths slip into an easy rhythm, suggesting that his partner had fallen asleep. Curt stayed very still, even as his wandering thoughts kept him awake far longer than he would have liked, for fear of waking Owen up. 

 

He thought about how he partially was to blame for getting them caught. He thought about the fact that someone on the inside had fed Luka information about their op. He thought about Luka, a lot, thought about those reptilian eyes that had hidden something twisted. 

 

As he began to drift off, his thoughts became less plagued by the pain of the past and the uncertainty of the future and more calmed by the feeling of Owen beside him. He thought about the warmth that radiated from Owen, close enough to touch. He thought about Owen’s soft breaths that sounded like a rhythm, one that was lulling him to sleep. He thought about Owen’s—

 

Owen whimpered, and he rolled onto his back.

 

Curt startled and turned over onto his side to get a better look at Owen. His eyes, which had been slowly growing heavier and heavier with fatigue, shot wide open. He turned his head to the side to catch a glimpse of what was going on with his partner, his Owen.

 

Owen, who’d been sleeping peacefully a moment before, was now trembling in his sleep, and his head lolled side to side as he tried to shake away whatever demon was haunting him. He had begun to sweat, and he looked sickly in the low lights. 

 

He whimpered again, and the sound broke Curt’s heart.

 

“Owen,” he whispered, contemplating reaching out to touch him, to shake him awake. He glanced at the nightstand, where Owen had left his gun so that it would be easily accessible. It wasn’t that Curt actually thought that Owen would ever shoot him, but it never hurt to be cautious. “Come on, O. Come back to me.”

 

He finally made up his mind, and he reached out to gently grip Owen’s shoulder. 

 

The next thing Curt knew, Owen was on top of him, and there was something cold and hard pressed under his jaw. With a start, Curt realized that Owen had flipped over on top of him and, somehow, simultaneously grabbed for the gun that he’d been sleeping by. Now, Owen was breathing heavy, a haunted look in his eye, as he sat on his knees with Curt’s torso cradled between his thighs. In a different situation, Curt would have been right where he wanted to be, with Owen on top of him. This time however, with Owen looking sickly and slightly feral, he was more concerned than aroused.

 

“Bad dream?” Curt asked calmly, casually, as if he didn’t have the barrel of a gun shoved under his chin. 

 

Owen blinked down at him, still breathing in gasping, halting breaths, and he quickly scrambled off of Curt. He discarded the gun back on the nightstand and sat up, holding himself tightly.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. Curt could see him visibly trembling. He propped himself up on an elbow to better face Owen. 

 

“Don’t be. You’ve got killer instincts,” he said, then he reached out to gently touch Owen’s back. At first, Owen flinched at the unexpected contact, his entire body going rigid, before he melted back down. Curt took that as an invitation to keep up what he was doing. He traced his finger over where he guessed Owen’s spine was, and the contact was enough to make Owen shiver, though he was shaking far less.

 

Curt knew the touches would ground him. 

 

“Didn’t mean time wake you,” Owen whispered, still facing the wall with the window. Curt brushed his fingers over Owen’s uninjured side, trying to give him something to focus on that would keep him centered in the present moment.

 

Curt didn’t have the heart to tell Owen that he hadn’t yet fallen asleep, even though it was several hours past when he should have realistically passed out. 

 

“S’not a problem,” Curt said. He paused, shaking his head. “Bad dream?”

 

Owen shrugged, his back still to Curt. Lightly, trying to get his attention more than anything else, Curt poked him in the back. Owen turned around when he did so, a small, sad smile on his face.

 

“Same old dream.”

 

Ah. 

 

Curt knew what Owen meant. Nearly everyone in the espionage game, no matter the agency, the nationality, the side of the war that they were on, had issues with recurring bête noirs. In particular, every agent struggled with a specific scenario that spiraled into endless nightmares.

 

For a long time, Curt’s bad dream was of failing a mission that would impact his loved ones. It stemmed from an operation that had gone very south very quick at a gala that Cynthia was invited to. He never thought he’d say it but, when the gunshot had rang out at the event, and Curt couldn’t spot Cynthia in the chaos, he feared that his failure had cost her her life. He used to see versions of that night over and over again, nearly every night, though sometimes it was Barb he couldn’t find, sometimes it was his mother. 

 

Then, he’d met and subsequently fallen in love with Owen Carvour, and his bête noir had shifted from failing his loved ones to being too late to save his partner. His dream consisted of Owen, bleeding out, caught in a bomb blast, falling from a roof, all because Curt was a few seconds too slow. It haunted him often.

 

Owen, he knew, had a similar dream, one he’d spoken about only once, in a dark hotel room not unlike their current lodgings in Berlin in the spring. Owen described it as endless falling, like he was tumbling through the air. He had confided in Curt that he sometimes wished that he would just hit the ground, no matter if it killed him, so that the falling would cease. Owen had said that he always saw those that he trusted most above him, that he reached out to grab their hands, but no one would save him, not after they saw the blood staining his outstretched hands. 

 

Curt’s deepest fear was failing those he loved.

 

Owen’s deepest fear was being unlovable.

 

“It’s over now, Owen,” Curt said, letting his words carry more weight than he normally would. He wanted Owen to know that he was being genuine. “You’re safe.”

 

Owen sighed heavily, somewhere between relieved and exhausted, and he laid back down beside Curt after a moment of hesitation. Then, carefully, gently, as if asking for permission, he reached out to grab Curt’s wrist.

 

Curt froze, but he didn’t protest. Owen had spent the night seeing people pull away from his touch; Curt would never wound him by doing the same. He knew it was bad for him to give in to this, to give himself a false hope for something he knew could never be. Even still, he let Owen hold tight to his wrist.

 

Slowly, spurred on by the intimacy of the moment and the boldness that came when exhaustion seeped in, he turned his hand over so that he could lace his fingers in between Owen’s. He expected to be brushed off, for Owen to be shocked that Curt would ever try such a thing. Instead, Owen let it happen, and he squeezed Curt’s hand tightly once before relaxing. 

 

He could hear Owen humming as he finally drifted off. It was a familiar tune, one reminiscent of a smoky bar in upstate New York that they’d been in so very long ago. He smiled sleepily.

 

Good night, blackbird,  Curt thought to himself, though he didn’t say anything out loud.

 

Both men slept more peacefully after that than they ever had in the field before.

Chapter Text

The morning came much too soon for Curt’s tastes.

 

He hadn’t really slept at all. Either because he was too worried that Owen would suffer from another nightmare or too worried that he would encounter a bad dream of his own if he fell asleep, Curt had fought sleep for most of the night. He had waited patiently for Owen to slip back into sleep before he even thought about relaxing, but by then he was too far down an endless spiral of his own thoughts to get a good night’s rest. 

 

Eventually, at some odd hour of the very early morning, he’d drifted off.

 

It felt like he blinked, and then it was morning. That couldn’t have been the case, however, because Curt definitely hadn’t seen the sun rise gradually begin spill light into their room through the blinds over the window. No, he had fallen asleep when it was still dark, and the room was very much alive with light when he awoke.

 

He hazily blinked the sleep from his eyes and let his gaze focus on the bed. Owen was not beside him. Curt sat up with a start, staring down at the indent in the mattress and pooling sheets where he knew Owen had been when he’d fallen asleep. He panicked for a moment, moving to look around the room. It was empty, meaning that Owen was—

 

“Morning, ducky,” a soft voice called from across the room.

 

Curt smiled despite himself. Owen was in the bathroom. That explained why he was hidden from his sight.

 

In that moment, Curt understood what Owen had said about falling asleep beside him and waking up alone. It had been a terrifying handful of seconds for Curt just then, especially since he knew that Owen was still recovering from a slew of injuries that made him an easier target. He didn’t know exactly what Owen’s initial reaction to his absence had been, but if he had felt at all similar to the way Curt had just felt—as if his heart had leapt into his throat, as if his breath had been stolen from his chest, as if he’d lost some integral piece of himself that he hadn’t even realized he needed—then he was very sorry for bringing that upon him.

 

Upon focusing harder upon his surroundings, he could hear running water, and he assumed Owen was brushing his teeth.

 

“Morning, O,” Curt said, letting his voice carry. He slipped out of bed, and he stood and stretched until there was an audible pop from his back. 

 

Owen walked back into the room just in time to grimace at him. Curt smiled. He knew that Owen hated the sounds of joints cracking, but Curt’s body never seemed to stop snap, crackle, popping. 

 

“Plans for the day?” Owen asked as he limped to the desk. He lowered himself into the chair, his injured leg straight out in front of him. A barely-there expression of pain, one that came and went so quick that it was nearly imperceptible, flashed across his face as he settled into a more comfortable position.

 

Curt shrugged. He grabbed his boots from where they were lined up at the foot of the bed. He sat on the bed and began putting them on and lacing them up, ignoring Owen’s stare that was leveled on him.

 

“I plan to head out to scout out a lead on Luka I found in the A.S.S. case file last night,” Curt said finally, risking a glance up at Owen. His eyes were warm again, warm and alight with his normal mirth. It made Curt smile.

 

Upon hearing his words, Owen quirked an eyebrow up, his head tilting to the side. It wasn’t born of confusion, per se; it was more of an invitation for Curt to elaborate. It was good to see that Owen was back to his usual self, all half smiles and subtle movements. Normally, Owen rarely ever showed his emotions on his face or in his body language, but Curt had been around him long enough to understand his subtle expressions. It was something he prided himself on, actually, his ability to read the notoriously unreadable Owen Carvour.

 

“Care to share with the class, love?”

 

There Owen went again, tossing around nicknames that made Curt feel things somewhere deep in his chest. Curt swallowed his next breath more than he inhaled it, too afraid that it would sound hitched or abnormal. 

 

“Apparently,” Curt started. Having finished lacing up his boots, he stood, shoving his weapon in his waistband, before continuing, “there’s a journalist that’s been pissing Luka off. Sticking her nose in his business. I’m going to pay her a visit.”

 

Owen hummed, leaning back in his chair. He sighed, rolling his neck. Then, he rose, once again shoving down a grimace.

 

“Off we go, then,” he said, running a hand through his dark hair and flashing a smile.

 

Curt raised a hand, giving Owen a very pointed look. Owen returned the look in kind, his smile hiding the edge to his determination but only just.

 

“No,” Curt said, his voice strong. He was using that tone that usually scared off the new recruits, the interns, and literally anyone in a lab coat.

 

“Yes,” Owen countered. His voice was smoother but no less direct. He spoke like a man used to getting what he wanted, and Curt huffed.

 

“No.”

 

“Yes.”

 

No .”

 

Yes .”

 

Curt paused. He looked Owen up and down and, with the inklings of a plan forming in his mind, sighed dramatically. He nodded, then gestured to the door.

 

“Off we go, then,” he said, trying to sound resigned. It must have sounded convincing enough because Owen flashed a triumphant smile and stood up to follow him. “If you think you’re healed up enough.”

 

Owen harrumphed as he followed Curt to the door.

 

“I’m fine,” he said, his voice strong and determined.

 

Curt almost believed him. He would have believed him, in fact, if he did not know the extent to which he’d been injured. But, he knew. He also knew that Owen was a prideful bastard who would never admit that he wasn’t in a position to do some leg work, even if he was bruised and battered beyond belief. 

 

Curt knew that he needed to be shown that he wasn’t ready, to be called out and proven wrong, in order for him to ever begrudgingly agree to sit on the sidelines.

 

They stepped up to the door, and Owen reached out to grab the door handle. Curt grabbed his hand before he could do so.

 

Owen looked at him strangely, his face receding into that near unreadable expression.

 

“What are you—”

 

Curt tapped his knee into the back of Owen’s injured knee. It wasn’t hard enough to do damage or cause hardly any pain, but it did result in Owen’s knee buckling in such a way that sent him falling backwards. Curt, using the hand that wasn’t currently holding Owen’s hand, wrapped his arm around Owen’s waist, mindful of his burn, to catch him. 

 

It was almost as if they’d been dancing and Curt had dipped him.

 

“Yeah,” Curt said softly and sarcastically, trying not to laugh at the surprise in Owen’s eyes. “You’re fine.”

 

Owen was going red across the face, but his expression was decidedly neutral. He stared up at Curt for a long moment, and Curt was compelled to stare back. He was still holding Owen in that position, leaning over him. They were close enough that their breaths were mingling, and Curt could smell the spearmint on Owen’s breath from his toothpaste.

 

“Maybe,” Owen said in a small voice, adjusting the hand in Curt’s grip so that their hands were clasped together properly. Curt wanted to lace their fingers together, but he remained stock still. “Maybe not fine.”

 

Neither moved for a handful of seconds. They remained where they were, frozen, staring into one another’s eyes and waiting for the other to make the next move.

 

Ultimately, Curt broke their position first because he wasn’t sure how much longer he could Owen’s gaze and not lean in to kiss him. He helped push Owen to standing. As soon as Owen regained his balance, Curt removed his hand from the small of his back. Their hands remained clasped together, a fact that Curt didn’t know how to process.

 

“I’ll be back in three hours max,” Curt said, knowing that Owen would likely be sitting worried the whole time. “See if you can scrounge up anything else from the files while I’m gone.”

 

He moved to leave, but Owen’s grip on his hand remained even after Curt had turned and started towards the door. Curt paused, looking over his shoulder.

 

“Be careful.” Owen released his hand and crossed his arms over his chest.

 

Curt gave him a reassuring smile.

 

“What’s the magic word?” He asked with a wink. Owen rolled his eyes at him, but there was a ghost of a smile on his face. It was barely more than the upturn of the corners of his lips, but it was there nonetheless.

 

“Fuck you,” Owen said, but his words didn’t have any venom behind them. Curt shrugged.

 

“Good enough.” He turned the handle on the door and walked out. He was about to pull the door shut behind him when—

 

“Curt,” Owen called, and Curt poked his head back in the door. Owen shifted his weight from one foot to the other, looking unsure of himself. “ Please, be careful.”

 

“Always,” Curt said smiling. Owen snorted, but the answer must have been sufficient enough because he didn’t try to stop Curt from leaving again. 

 

Curt went down the stairs quickly. He made it out onto the street without bumping into more than two other people, which was a good sign. Once on the street, he ducked into the cover of an alleyway. He tapped his wrist watch communicator, holding it up to his chin so as to better hear and be heard.

 

“Curt!” 

 

Curt flinched away from his watch instinctively at the burst of noise.

 

“Hi, Barb,” he said, shaking his head. “Listen, I need a location on a target.”

 

He heard some shuffling and a fair amount of clicking, which meant that Barb was getting ready to help. 

 

“Alright, just tell me the name and I’ll plug it in.”

 

Curt glanced around the alleyway, checking that the coast was, indeed, clear, before he said anything further. No need to let anyone know where he was headed before even he knew. Besides, if someone after him overheard him saying the journalist’s name, he might accidentally drag her into the espionage game.

 

Finding that the alleyway was empty, Curt nodded once to himself.

 

“Her name is Svetlana Vydrina, she’s a Russian journalist based in Moscow.”

 

“Okay,” Barb said, followed by several seconds of silence. Curt rolled his shoulders, glancing around again. He didn’t like staying still for so long. Finally, she continued. “There’s a registered address and an office under that name. Which one do you want?”

 

Curt flipped over the face of his communicator. Thankfully, it was still a functioning watch. It was nine forty in the morning on a Thursday, meaning that the journalist, Vydrina, was likely at her office. 

 

“Her work address,” Curt decided. 

 

“It’s about a mile and a half from your current location. You need to go two blocks east and then cut west for another three. The building is Izdatel’stvo Ortoff, room number two hundred fourteen.”

 

“Thanks Barb.” Curt didn’t wait for a reply. He turned off his communicator and started walking at a brisk pace eastward. Following Barb’s directions was like second nature to him. 

 

He spent the entire walk trying, and failing, to get himself to focus on the mission at hand and not Owen. He needed to think about what he was going to say to get into the building, what he was going to say to get into her office, and that was only the beginning. Unfortunately, his mind kept driving back to the way it’s felt to hold Owen in his arms, the way Owen had been the one to readjust so that they were holding hands. 

 

Thoughts of Owen were on the forefront of his mind up until Curt reached the door to Izdatel’stvo Ortoff, or Ortoff Publish Company, as it would be called in English. It was a tall, grey building, at least four stories, built like a rectangle. There was nothing overwhelmingly special about its architecture, but not much in Russia had overwhelmingly stellar architectural design. They liked things to be functional, not flashy.

 

Curt pulled the door open and let himself into the semi-busy lobby. There were clerks rushing about, chattering on about what needed to be sent out and what deadlines needed to be reached. There were young paper boys scuttling around, either following after an adult or scampering about to do some small job. Curt ignored the mess and, instead, crossed the room, through the crowd. He walked up to the front desk, where a young woman with curled red hair was sitting.

 

“Can I help you?” She asked in Russian, sweetly. Curt flashed a winning smile, leaning on the desk.

 

“I’m here to see a Ms. Vydrina, is she in?” 

 

The receptionist shuffled some of her papers, eventually withdrawing a sheet of paper that had Vydrina’s schedule for the day on it.

 

“She’s currently doing an interview with another man in her office. You can wait down here until she comes to collect you,” she said politely, gesturing to the row of chairs along the wall closest to the front door.

 

“Would it be at all possible for me to wait outside her office,” Curt asked, letting his voice drop a little quieter  for effect. He looked around the room and then refocused his attention on the receptionist. “She told me that I needed to get this information to her as soon as possible.”

 

“It’s not really regulation…” The receptionist trailed off, and Curt played up his charm.

 

“Please?” Curt asked softly, leaning even further over the desk so that he dominated the receptionists attention. He let his smile widen.

 

“I suppose,” she paused, fixing her blouse, her face reddening, “I suppose there’s no harm. Second floor, room two fourteen.”

 

“Thanks, doll,” Curt said, winking. The receptionist blushed a deep red and gave him a small wave goodbye.

 

Curt climbed the stairs in a hurry, taking them two steps at a time. When he made it to the second floor he noticed that it was much quieter and far emptier. In fact, there wasn’t a single person in the hallway. The hallway was lined with doors that led to offices. Curt, treading softly to avoid being heard, moved down the hall until he came to the office labeled 214. He paused outside the door. 

 

Faintly, he could hear what sounded like two people grappling with one another. He hesitated, not wanting to barge in to play the hero if he wasn’t one hundred percent certain that there was a struggle occurring. 

 

There was a crash.

 

Curt kicked the door in without pausing to think. As soon as he did so, he was knocked to the side and caught off guard. He stumbled into the room, and someone whom he couldn’t get a good look at pushed past him. He debated following whoever it was, but he saw someone else that had his immediate attention. 

 

On the floor, with blood weeping from a wound at her temple, was the journalist he had come to see. 

 

Curt quickly took his jacket off and knelt beside her, checking for a pulse. Vydrina’s eyes opened, and she looked up at Curt in a panic. She pressed her hands against his face, trying to get him away from her. 

 

“It’s alright, I’m not going to hurt you,” Curt said, before realizing he was speaking in English. He switched to Russian. “I’m here to help!”

 

She stopped fighting him after that. 

 

“Please,” she whispered, sounding exhausted and weak. “Please, you must stop them.”

 

“Stop who?” Curt asked, using his jacket applying pressure to the large gash in her head. She must have a second injury, because there was also blood blooming across her torso. Curt lifted her shirt to better see the wound.

 

 It was a stab wound. It was deep.

 

Curt moved so that his jacket was pressed against her stomach, trying in vain to stop the bleeding.

 

“My desk, second,” she coughed, spluttering violently. With a start, Curt noticed that she was coughing up blood. That was really not a good sign. “Second drawer. File.”

 

Curt moved away from her to grab the file. It was exactly where she said it would be. He returned to her side immediately, once again trying to stem the bleeding. He knew it would not be enough, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to try.

 

“Who do I need to stop?” He reiterated. She took his hand in her own, and he gave it a squeeze to try and reassure her that it would all be alright. 

 

“Luka. Stop,” she coughed again, and her breaths were more like gasps at that point. “Stop Luka.”

 

Her head fell to the side, and she was still and quiet. He struggled to find her pulse, but it flickered weakly beneath his fingertips before ceasing altogether. She was dead. He closed her eyes and stood up.

 

Curt shook his head. Owen was not going to like this.

Chapter Text

Curt took one look inside the file and knew he had to get it back to Owen as quick as possible.

 

Curt shoved the file in his waistband and pulled his shirt over it, and then he slipped out of the publishing company through a back door. 

 

He returned to the motel by way of back alleys and the least crowded streets. Along the way, he dumped his bloodied jacket in the nearest trash bin, trying to avoid leaving evidence out for anyone to see. He shoved his hands in his pockets, and he hoped that anyone that happened to see the tiny smudges of blood on his forearms would think that it was from the wounds beneath the bandaging on his wrists. 

 

Finally, after hurriedly ducking down one final alleyway that led him to the back door of the motel, he walked into relative safety. He took the stairs two at a time. By the time he reached the floor that their room was on, he was nearly sprinting to get back to Owen. 

 

Curt had only been gone around two hours, an hour less than he’d told Owen he’d be out, but he hadn’t expected it to be quite so action filled. Now, he was feeling the normal adrenaline of a mission. 

 

He let himself into the room after knocking quickly—once, twice, thrice over—to signal Owen that it was him entering. Owen was laying on the bed, reading a file and looking bored out of his mind, but he sat up when Curt entered the room.

 

“What happened?” Owen asked. Curt guessed that there was something in his facial expression that gave away the fact that he had run into problems. “Did you meet the journalist? And where’s your jacket?”

 

Curt pulled his shirt up so that he could grab the file that he’d been given by the journalist from his waistband. He crossed the room, holding the file out for Owen to grab. Owen did so, and he flipped it open without any more questions.

 

“Journalist is dead. I walked in on someone trying to kill her, didn’t get an ID. She gave me that,” Curt said, talking so quickly that he fumbled over some of the words. He was breathing heavy, his adrenaline still sky high despite the fact that he was no longer in a rush. He fidgeted for a moment, running his hands through his hair, which caught Owen’s attention.

 

“Curt your hands—”

 

“Not my blood,” Curt said, waving Owen’s worry off. He began pacing the floor. He just felt that he needed to keep moving, moving, moving.

 

Owen sat the file on the bed and rose. He caught Curt by the shoulders, stopping him in his tracks.

 

“Curt, slow down,” Owen said, giving Curt’s shoulders a squeeze. He looked over Curt for injury and, upon finding none, shook his head with a small smile on his face. “Explain it to me without tripping over yourself, please.”

 

And so, Curt told him everything. It was a quick story, over and done in just under five minutes or so, and Owen, who was sitting on the bed, kept up with him well enough that Curt had no need to repeat himself. Owen was patient; he didn’t interrupt or ask for clarification. He let Curt inform him of the events of the morning in his own rambling way, and Curt was thankful that Owen knew him well enough to understand his stumbling storytelling.

 

“That file has a damn good lead, O,” Curt said, moving past the retelling and onto making a plan. Owen thumbed through the file, eventually opening to the page that Curt was most excited about. “It’s got names and addresses of several low-level members of Luka’s syndicate, including—”

 

“Including one based in Moscow,” Owen finished, looking up at Curt with a grin. It was their first solid lead in the case, and both of them were practically giddy about the discovery. Curt smiled back, but his face fell after a moment.

 

“A woman died for that information,” he whispered, suddenly looking less bubbly and more exhausted. He sank onto the bed, dejected and deflated. “She was just trying to do what’s right.”

 

Owen hummed, low and soft. He turned a page, his eyes tracing over it before landing on Curt. Owen looked at him, not with pity or sympathy, but with understanding. It was never easy to deal with civilian casualties. While losing a fellow spy was difficult, it was less horrible because, as awful as it sounds, they’d signed up for the job; they knew the risks. Civilian casualties were messier, and they always left a bitter taste in Curt’s mouth.

 

“She was keeping tabs on Luka with help from an informant,” Owen said lightly, no doubt trying to gently pry Curt’s attention away from the unfortunate horrors of their job. “A woman she called the Red Queen.” 

 

“Any chances of hunting her down?” Curt asked, leaning over Owen to read the file in his lap.

 

“No, she seems to be former KGB from what our journalist friend could tell,” Owen said, and Curt sat up straight again, looking at the ceiling and rolling his shoulders. God, he needed a break. Beside him, Owen flipped back to the page with names and addresses. “This man, however, we can find. Mikhail Yenen.”

 

“Luka’s man in Moscow.” 

 

“We’ll have to tread carefully,” Owen warned, reading further into the scribbled notes that the journalist had left on the page under Yenen’s name. “Either Im reading this wrong or this says that he’s a diplomat.”

 

Curt looked over at the word Owen was pointing at. He chuckled.

 

“A little of both. Your Russian is rusty at best, but that does say diplomat,” Curt teased. Owen bumped his shoulder with his own. 

 

“Oh, please, my Russian is pretty good,” Owen shot back, his eyebrows furrowed in mock indignation. Curt laughed, and he shook his head. Owen rolled his eyes, but he was chuckling, too.

 

“Maybe it is fine,” Curt shrugged, crossing his arms over his chest, “but I just can’t tell because of that awful accent.”

 

Owen scoffed, but his mock hurt was quickly replaced by a real smile. Curt reveled in his ability to coax such a reaction out of Owen. His Owen was not a smiley person, but sometimes, in moments like this, moments when they were alone, Owen would grin at him like Curt was the funniest person that he’d ever met. It made Curt melt. That was a smile for his eyes only, one that he’d only ever seen Owen flash for him. It made his heart sing.

 

Curt stood up suddenly, feeling overwhelmed by his thoughts, and walked over to the desk across the room. He opened the top drawer, where he'd earlier seen a map of the city that was courtesy of the motel. He pulled it out, unfolding it. 

 

“Looks like we’re just two miles away from his home address,” Curt said, after finding the address listed for Yenen on the map. “I suppose we should go pick him up.”

 

Owen rubbed his hand along his jaw, where stubble had begun to form. Neither man had shaved in at least five days, and they were both sporting the beginnings of beards. Curt thought that it made Owen look rather ruggish, an appearance that was particularly appealing because Owen was normally always clean shaven. Curt felt that he, on the other hand, just looked in dire need of a shave. Owen always did pull off a beard better than him.

 

“I think we’d be better off observing him for at least a day or two, so as to better learn his routine.”

 

Curt almost argued with him, but then he thought about what had happened after their most recent difference of opinion about a case. Curt had favored efficiency over playing it safe, and it had gotten them both caught. It had gotten Owen tortured. Curt shut his jaw with an audible click. 

 

Curt looked over at Owen. He was sitting on the bed, his ankles crossed, his back straight. His prom and proper appearance was juxtaposed against what injuries Curt knew resided beneath his clothes. He blinked and saw Owen’s knee shattered to the side, erupting with blue, purple, and green bruises. He blinked and saw Owen with his shirt on fire, his skin covered in blisters and blood. He thought about Luka running his hands along Owen’s body, touching his back and his shoulders and his face. 

 

Curt thought about Owen with blood across his face. He thought about what could have happened had they not escaped. 

 

He shook his head.

 

“I agree.”

 

Owen tutted, still reading through the file.

 

“No, really, Curt. I think we need to…” he paused, slowly realizing what Curt had said. He looked up, and his eyes scanned over Curt in confusion. “Did you just… did you just agree with me?”

 

“Yeah,” Curt said, shrugging. He was trying to play it off, but he knew that Owen was startled by the fact that they hadn’t clashed over making a plan. It was something they always bickered about. Owen always wanted to wait, to observe. Curt always wanted to act, to move. It wasn’t normal for Curt to give in to Owen’s preference for operations, at least not so readily. He flexed his jaw, trying to smile but finding that it was tight.

 

“You’re agreeing with me?”

 

“Yeah, O, is that really so hard to believe?” Curt snapped. Owen’s face went slack, and Curt realized too late that he’d accidentally sent Owen clamoring into himself by lashing out at him, where he’d shut down all outward emotion in favor of appearing distant and apathetic. He sighed, shaking his head. “Sorry, it’s been a long morning. What I’m trying to say is that I trust you.”

 

What Curt didn’t say that he trusted Owen more than he trusted himself at that point.

 

Owen looked over him, quizzically, before slowly relaxing once more. He gave Curt a small smile, one that was likely meant to reassure him. 

 

“Thank you for trusting me,” he said. And then, warm eyes locked on Curt’s tired ones, he whispered, “I trust you, too.”

 

It almost sounded like he was trying to say something else.

 

Before Curt could further analyze that fact, his communicator beeped. He looked down at it and rolled his eyes. He tossed Owen the map he was still holding.

 

“Cynthia,” he said, and Owen nodded. Curt walked into the bathroom and shut himself in. He didn’t know what Cynthia needed to tell him and, though he trusted Owen completely, it was against regulation to let someone outside the agency listen to his communications if he could help it. That went along with Cynthia’s rule number three:  trust no one but the agency. 

 

Curt didn’t know when it had happened, but he realized with a start that he definitely trusted Owen far more than he trusted anyone else, especially anyone at A.S.S. Barb and Cynthia were, of course, also some of the only names on the very short list of people he trusted, but they were two people within an agency of hundreds. How could Curt trust the other spies when they were all professional liars? How could he trust the lab technicians and scientists when they were so often turned by foreign governments. 

 

Owen was also a professional liar. He was of a foreign government. To Curt, though, he had sworn that he’d never lie unless ordered to. Owen had saved him countless times, had always had him back. Curt trusted him more than anyone else in his life, even more than his own mother. Realizing that just made him fall even further for him. 

 

Shit , Curt thought to himself. I’m really in deep.

 

The beeping of his watch drew him from his thoughts. He answered Cynthia’s call.

 

“About time, holy fuck,” he heard Cynthia scold. He shook his head.

 

“Hello, Cynthia,” he said. He already knew he wasn’t going to get a hello back. Cynthia hardly ever wasted time on niceties, unless she was handling some foreign dignitary.

 

“What’s your progress, Mega,” she asked. Curt could practically smell her cigarette that she was no doubt smoking. 

 

“We’ve got a suspect we’re going to intercept and interrogate soon,” Curt said. He didn’t want to tell Cynthia that it was a diplomat, lest she start screaming at him about relations between the United States and the Soviet Union already being utterly terrible. “He works for Luka.”

 

Curt practically spat the name.

 

“Mega, you sound…” She paused, and Curt waited patiently for her to finish her sentence. “Don’t get too close to this.”

 

“Of course not, ma’am,” he said, not even really believing himself. For emphasis, he added, “That would be against your number one rule.”

 

He could imagine the look on Cynthia’s face. It was likely a cross between disappointment and disgruntlement. That seemed to be her factory setting. 

 

“Good,” she said sharply. “Keep me posted. Tell Carvour I say hello.”

 

Of course, she would want to say hello to Owen and not Curt; she’d been trying to snatch him from MI6 for nearly the entire time that Curt had been partnered with him. His watch beeped once, signalling that Cynthia had ended the call. 

 

Curt sighed, shaking his head. He exited the bathroom, only to find Owen pouring over the file once again. Owen looked up at him as he came back into the room, an eyebrow raised in an unspoken question.

 

“Cynthia says hello.”

 

Owen smiled, rolling his eyes.

 

“When will she learn, she won’t get me on her payroll,” Owen said, and Curt laughed. He sat beside Owen before laying down on his back on the bed.

 

“She’s a persistent one,” he said. It was Owen’s turn to laugh, and he dropped onto his back as well, crossing his arms over his chest as he laid shoulder to shoulder with Curt. At first, they both just stared up at the ceiling, but Owen turned his head to look at Curt after a few moments.

 

“Too bad she’s not my type,” he said, his voice still teasing but lower. Curt met his gaze, trying to decipher from his facial expression if that was a one of comment or if Owen had intended for that to come off the way it had. 

 

“Careful,” Curt warned, just above a whisper. He tried not to think about their proximity. It was just teasing, he wouldn’t let it get to him in a way Owen hadn’t I meant for it to. “You’ll break her heart.”

 

“Oh, please, I’m no heartbreaker,” Owen said. “She’ll get over me.”

 

Curt hummed but didn’t say what he was thinking.

 

Liar. 

 

You break my heart a little more every day because I know I can never have you.

 

Then, Owen smiled at him, and Curt knew he’d take all of the heartbreak willingly. So long as Owen looked at him like he was something worth admiring, Curt could take all the heartbreak in the world. It was true that being unable to call Owen his own shattered his heart a little more everyday.

 

But it was also true that, when Owen smiled like that at him, it made his heart feel whole again.

Chapter Text

They spent the remainder of the afternoon following around the Russian diplomat, Yenen. 

 

He was young, at least for such a high ranking government official. He was probably in his mid thirties, with a strong jawline, a runner’s physique, and a serious craving for coffee. Curt couldn’t deny that he was attractive, although his involvement with Luka made him exponentially less appealing. A pretty face couldn’t make up for an ugly heart. Besides, his broad shoulders and handsome features paled in comparison to Owen’s slender form, gorgeous eyes, and beautiful smile, and Owen’s heart was full of compassion. Curt could never imagine him mixed up with a criminal organization that thrived on hurting others or selling weapons that would eventually take innocent lives. 

 

Curt and Owen, from within the safety of their newly rented car, had watched him as he exited his office and walked to the coffee shop across the street a grand total of six times throughout the afternoon. Curt didn’t know how much coffee it would take to kill a man, but he guessed that Yenen was getting close to the limit. 

 

Curt watched through the binoculars—they’d purchased them along with some cheap snacks to substitute for lunch and dinner before beginning their stakeout—as Yenen exited his office and crossed the street to go to the coffee shop for the seventh time in six hours.

 

He was wearing a long coat over his suit, pulled tight around his body to ward off the cold evening air. He ran a hand through his hair, looking worn out and relieved, likely because his work day had drawn to a close. He walked with a certain swagger that Curt recognized, and an idea started forming in his mind.

 

“He’s got his coat on and his briefcase in hand,” Curt told Owen, following Yenen until he entered the small coffee shop. “He could be done for the day.”

 

Owen checked his watch.

 

“It’s seven o’clock, on the dot. Think he’s always this punctual?”

 

Curt tutted, passing the binoculars over to Owen. He pressed them against his face, taking a moment to observe Yenen as best as he could through the windows of the little coffee shop. 

 

“I suppose so,” he said, then he unzipped his jacket, revealing the form-fitting t-shirt underneath. He used the rear view mirror to check his reflection, and he ran his hands through his hair to tousle it. Curt turned to Owen. “How do I look?”

 

Owen lowered the binoculars to look back at Curt with an eyebrow raised inquisitively, but he didn’t respond right away. Instead, he just blinked at Curt, his jaw flexing.

 

“You, uh,” he said, finally, sounding unsure, “you look fine?”

 

Curt laughed, shaking his head. That seemed to diffuse whatever tension Owen had been feeling, and a small smile spread across his face.

 

“I was going for hot, but fine’ll do,” Curt said, and he turned to get out of the car. He should have guessed that asking Owen to comment on his appearance would make him uncomfortable; it wasn’t exactly something that guy pals asked each other about. 

 

Before he could open the door, however, Owen’s hand reached out and snagged his elbow. Curt stopped short, looking back at his partner. 

 

“What’re you doing, Curt?” Owen asked, looking bewildered. Curt grinned at him, shrugging his shoulders. 

 

“I’ve got a hunch about Yenen,” was all that Curt said in reply. He could practically see the wheels in Owen’s mind turning behind his eyes, and it took a half second for Owen to put the pieces together. When he figured out Curt’s meaning, he spluttered, momentarily caught off guard.

 

“You think he’s gay?”

 

Curt shrugged again, feeling very out in the open. How could he explain that Yenen had the same walking gait as a few of his ex-flings, and that he looked like he would fit right in with any of the men Curt used to pick up at bars that were secret safe havens for men like him, men who liked men? How could he explain that he figured Yenen was into men because he dressed in a certain way, because he styled his hair a certain way? How could he explain without accidentally sharing the fact that he had intimate knowledge of the typical gay man?

 

Instead of explaining, he offered a succinct answer to Owen’s question. 

 

“Yes,” he said, trying to force his voice to come out normally even as his chest tightened. He felt like he was walking a very thin, very shaky line. Owen gave him a look he couldn’t read.

 

“And you’re alright with flirting with a man?” Owen asked, and Curt suppressed a snort. He was certainly far more than alright with it, but Owen didn’t need to know that. It was hard enough to hide his pining for his partner already; it’d be near impossible to do so if Owen realized that Curt was gay. 

 

Strangely, Curt didn’t worry about Owen turning him in. He trusted Owen with his life, and he knew that when (if?) Owen found out about his sexual orientation, he’d likely be a little surprised but ultimately unbothered.

 

“Yes,” Curt said again, as if it was obvious. Owen blinked at him—once, twice—his mouth opening and closing as he tried to form a sentence. Curt worries for a second that he might have misread Owen, that Owen would be disgusted by the fact. Instead, Owen just sat back and nodded.

 

“Oh,” he said, more to himself than Curt, sounding almost… relieved? Curt tucked that thought away to be analyzed later. “Okay.”

 

He removed his hand from Curt’s elbow. Curt gave him another smile and, spurred on by a burst of courage that shocked even him, then winked exaggeratedly. Owen rolled his eyes at Curt, but he was grinning too.

 

“I’ll be back in a bit.” Curt let himself out of the car. He moved to shut the door, when Owen’s voice stopped him.

 

“Go get him, cowboy.” 

 

Curt laughed, and he gave Owen a quick salute. He shut the door, and hurried across the street and into the coffee shop. It was damn cold, enough so that he wanted to zip up his jacket, but he left it open so that his figure could be seen. Curt wasn’t as strikingly tall as Owen or as ridiculously buff as some of his friends back at A.S.S., but he still had a solid, muscular build, and a charming smile, one that he’d found he could successfully use on both the ladies and men. He knew how to use his looks to his advantage. He had been trained to do so, in fact, although his training had been targeted at seducing women (that didn’t make it any less applicable). The wind was strong, and Curt guessed that his hair was looking far messier than intended by the time he reached the coffee shop. He smoothed it back absentmindedly. The windblown look was not an unattractive one; he could work with it.

 

The door chimed as he stepped inside. It was a narrow building, longer than it was wide, with tables lining one wall and the coffee bar lining the other. There was one woman working behind the coffee bar and another woman seated at a table in the back corner and reading the day’s paper, but Curt supposed a coffee shop would naturally be nearly empty at nineteen hundred hours. Leaning against the coffee bar, waiting for his order, briefcase at his feet and coat hanging loosely around his frame, Yenen stood with all the casual grace of a man who was used to being in the public eye. Curt stopped a few feet away from Yenen, and he looked over the menu carefully, pretending that he was having trouble deciding. 

 

“What can I make for you?” The barista asked. Curt noticed her elevator eyes, looking him up and down, and he didn’t miss that they settled momentarily on his lips before snapping back up to meet his gaze. He could also feel Yenen’s gaze on him, and he hoped it was lingering just as much as the barista’s.

 

Curt gave her a charming smile, and he ran his hand through his hair again.

 

“I can’t decide, any recommendations?” He asked, leaning back on his heels and crossing his arms. He kept the smile in place on his face, trying to look open and inviting. The barista smiled back, a blush rising to her cheeks. 

 

“I wouldn’t know, I–uh, I don’t drink coffee,” she said shyly, shrugging her shoulders. She was stuttering far more than what was likely normal for her. Curt liked that he could have that effect on someone, although he wished that that someone could be Owen. Owen had always been immune to his charms, oftentimes even amused by them, and it was ever so infuriating for Curt. 

 

“A barista that doesn’t like coffee? That sounds like the set up for a bad joke,” he said with a laugh, and the barista visibly relaxed, looking equally as amused. Curt’s eyes flicked towards Yenen, who was staring back. Good. Curt had his attention. “What about you, my friend? What’re you having?”

 

Yenen held his gaze, and Curt knew that he’d guessed right about his sexuality. He had that look in his eye that Curt knew all too well, a look that usually meant that Curt was going to get laid that night. 

 

“Black coffee, two sugars,” Yenen said finally. His voice was far deeper than what Curt had expected. Curt smiled, clapping his hands together. 

 

“That settles it, then. I’ll have a black coffee as well, two sugars.”

 

The barista nodded, and Curt paid her what was owed. She then busied herself behind the counter, and Curt took that as his opportunity to slide over to be beside Yenen. Yenen’s sharp blue eyes followed him, his intent clear to Curt but hidden from the untrained eye. 

 

“I haven’t seen you around here before,” Yenen said softly.

 

Curt turned sideways so as to be properly facing him. He smiled wider, letting his gaze slip up and down Yenen in a way that signaled to him that Curt was interested. This was a common dance for gay men and women, one that Curt knew how to do very well. First, they’d flirt with their eyes only. Then, when the coast was clear, they’d speak to one another with guarded sentences filled to the brink with implications, and the other would confirm their interest discreetly. Step three usually involved sticking a tongue down each other’s throats, but Curt doubted he’d let it get that far. Yenen was his mark, not a fling to be had. 

 

“I’m new in town,” Curt said, and Yenen grinned at him. His teeth were strikingly white and straight, and his smile was undoubtedly charming. Unbeknownst to him, though, Curt would never fall for him, despite his pretty face, because he didn’t even come close to being as stunning as Owen. Yenen was handsome, it’s true, but Owen was gorgeous. 

 

Owen also didn’t work for the man that had recently tortured them, so he also had that advantage over Yenen. 

 

“Here you are,” the barista interjected, placing both coffees on the counter. Curt said a quick thanks and gave her a wink, and she blushed a deep red and turned away quickly, hiding a giggle behind her hand.

 

Curt held his coffee cup out, and Yenen tapped his drink against it. Then, they both took a sip of their coffee, their eyes still locked together.

 

“Walk with me?” Yenen offered, turning away from the bar. Curt’s expression went from an amicable smile to a sly smirk. Yenen’s eyes clouded over at the sight, and Curt knew he had him—hook, line, and sinker. 

 

“Of course,” he said, his voice a shade huskier than normal. Yenen’s smile widened.

 

They crossed the coffee shop towards the front entrance. Yenen held the door for him as they exited, and Curt put a little attitude in his walk, swaying his hips just enough that he knew Yenen would notice. They started down the street, and Curt shifted closer to Yenen so that their shoulders brushed.

 

Curt risked a glance across the street to where Owen was sitting in their parked car in an alleyway. He hoped Owen would know to follow Curt in order to back him up. He had to trust that Owen knew enough about Curt’s haphazard planning to be one step behind him. 

 

About halfway down the block, Yenen placed a hand in the small of Curt’s back and led him into an alleyway. Curt was suddenly thankful that he’d left his firearm in the car because, if it had remained in his waistband, Yenen most definitely would have felt it. They both ducked into the alleyway, and Curt had only a second to wonder what was going on before Yenen tossed his coffee cup to the side and slammed his body into Curt’s. They stumbled backwards into the wall, but Curt’s small noise of surprise was swallowed up by Yenen’s lips, which were suddenly colliding with his. Yenen’s hand tangled into his hair, pulling Curt’s head to the side to grant him better access to Curt’s lips. 

 

Curt, with his back pressed to the wall, was fairly trapped, so he made the split second decision to play along. He moved his hands to Yenen’s waist and pulled him in to deepen the messy kiss. 

 

He closed his eyes and pretended this was Owen, that it wasn’t some corrupt Russian politician who he had had no intention of making out with, despite his cover.

 

The kiss stopped as soon as it began, not because either man had pulled away intentionally, but because Yenen was ripped away. 

 

Owen had, at some point, snuck up on the two and, upon seeing Yenen sporadically kiss Curt, he had grabbed Yenen by the shoulders and yanked him away with a growl. Yenen, too surprised by the action to resist, had only a moment to protest before Owen slammed his fist into his face. Yenen crumpled to the ground, out cold.

 

Owen rounded on Curt, a snarl still etched across his features. Curt wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, pushing off the wall to stand beside Owen.

 

“What the hell was that?” Owen asked, his voice low, dangerous. Curt snapped his gaze up to meet his, his mouth falling open.

 

“What was what?” Curt snapped back. He didn’t like the accusatory tone Owen was using, especially because he hadn’t any idea what he’d done wrong.

 

“Why the fuck were you snogging him?” Owen crosses his arms, his eyes dark. Curt was confused. 

 

Why the hell did it matter?

 

“I didn’t plan on it!” Curt protested, his hands on his hips as he stared at Owen indignantly. “ He kissed me !”

 

Owen’s face softened at that, and he let his arms uncross and fall to the side. He leveled Yenen’s crumpled form with a glare but, when he looked back up at Curt, his gaze was softer. He shook his head, looking like he was trying to clear his thoughts. 

 

“I apologize, I—” He cut himself off, shutting his mouth with an audible click and shaking his head again. His whole body seemed to relax. “Are you alright?”

 

Curt didn’t know how to react. Owen had pulled an emotional one-eighty, quick enough to give Curt whiplash, and he had no idea what response he was supposed to give. He settled on shrugging, but he smiled cautiously at Owen. A part of him was waiting to be yelled at again. 

 

“Fine, I think,” Curt said, but he knew that he didn’t sound very sure of himself. Owen’s eyes lingered in Curt’s face, and he felt the need to further explain himself. “Just a little caught off guard.”

 

Owen nodded at that, and he gripped Curt’s shoulder tightly in reassurance.

 

“He won’t touch you again, I swear it,” Owen said, and Curt felt his heart stop. He’d know Owen to be protective in the field, but something about this statement, this promise, felt different. Owen knelt beside Yenen, but it was awkward as his injured leg was straight out in front of him while his good leg was bent. “Let’s find out what this bastard knows.”

Chapter Text

Curt fetched the car while Owen stayed with the still unconscious Yenen. He drove to the entry of the alley, and then he hopped out to help Owen drag Yenen to the car. They shoved him into the back seat unceremoniously, bumping his head against the door accidentally, although Curt wondered if Owen had meant for it to happen; he seemed to really hate Yenen already.

 

Then, they drove in relative silence for about a mile and a half, to an abandoned warehouse that Owen had seen on the edge of town during their drive into Moscow a few days ago. Once there, they parked as close to a side entrance as possible. Curt looped his arm around Yenen’s waist, pulled his arm over his shoulders, and lugged him out of the car with a grunt. Owen was a step ahead, and he was already done picking the lock on the door by the time Curt had caught up. They let themselves into the building. 

 

Upon entering the musty, dingy space, Curt dropped Yenen to the floor. It was a wide open space, with only one large room that had several concrete pillars scattered about to hold up the ceiling. The floor was concrete. The walls were concrete. The whole building was made up of cracking, dirty-looking concrete. 

 

Curt coughed, choking on the dust in the air momentarily.

 

Owen looked around the room, eventually spying something that interested him, and he hobbled off to acquire it. He was still limping heavily, but he’d been wearing a knee brace (thank fuck) that had helped support him. Curt was glad to see Owen up and moving, but he worried that his partner was going to overdo it.

 

Curt heard a rattle as Owen turned back towards him. He was holding a chain, a relic that had been left behind when the warehouse had been abandoned, no doubt.  Curt nodded, and he dragged Yenen over to a pillar. He sat him upright against it, and Owen then wrapped the chain around his body, pulling tight. He secured the lock that was hanging loosely from one of the links in the chain, effectively pinning Yenen with his back to the pillar and his hands wrapped around it behind him. Curt gave the restraints a tug. They were tight; he didn’t worry that Yenen would be able to slip out. 

 

He did worry, though, about the lock on the chain that Owen had used. It looked very, very, durable, but Owen had made no mention of a key. It was entirely likely that they’d trapped Yenen there completely, unless Owen decided to pick the lock. 

 

Yenen had blood running down his face from his nose, courtesy of Owen punching him in the face. Curt hoped none of that blood had gotten on his jacket when he’d carried Yenen into the building. 

 

“You ready?” Owen asked, his voice soft. He was treating Curt as if he was fragile, as if Curt had never been kissed by a mark before. More times than he could count, Curt ended up in an uncomfortable position that he had to play along with in his line of work. He was A.S.S.’s piece of ass; he was used to getting squeezed, more often than not unwillingly. This time was no different, but he appreciated Owen’s concern.

 

After a deep inhale, Curt nodded, leaning back on his heels and shoving his hands in his pockets.

 

“Wake him up,” Curt said. He rolled his shoulders back, forcing his expression to be neutral. 

 

Owen hummed in response, before leaning over to slap Yenen across the face. His hand left an angry red mark on his cheek. Yenen came to with a gasp, his eyes opening wide. He frantically looked around the room, but he seemed to relax once he realized that he was chained up. He stared up at Curt, his smile flirtatious but venomous. 

 

“Skipped the foreplay, I see,” Yenen said in Russian, leaning his head back against the pillar. Curt gave him a smirk, but it was tight and forced.

 

“What can I say,” he started in Russian, shrugging. Then, he switched to English with a sarcastic smile. “I’m a get-to-the-point kind of guy.”

 

Owen stepped between Curt and Yenen, his face clouded by a dark glint in his eye and a dangerous expression across his features.

 

“Why does Luka need you on his payroll?” Owen asked in English. His voice was low, angry, and Curt shivered. He hadn’t seen Owen this pissed off in a very long time. It was kind of hot, especially since part of Owen’s distaste for Yenen stemmed from his protectiveness towards Curt as his partner.

 

Yenen met Owen’s glare evenly, looking far too relaxed for someone who was chained to a pillar and currently being interrogated. Curt glanced over at Owen, grinning.

 

“Keeping the bed warm for him?” Curt asked cheekily, in Russian. Yenen rolled his eyes; Owen looked unbothered.

 

This was a familiar dance between Curt and Owen, one that felt exceedingly natural. When they conducted interrogations together, Curt always came across as the arrogant, loud-mouth American, while Owen would play the part of the more serious British partner. It was enough of a juxtaposition that it often gave those that they were interrogating something akin to whiplash. 

 

Yenen held his ground. He didn’t appear as flustered by the act as people normally were, but Curt and Owen were just teeing up. 

 

“You’d know all about being in bed with another man, wouldn’t you,” Yenen said in English. It was a snarky non-answer, something that they were very used to hearing, but it was targeting an aspect of Curt that he really didn’t want to get dredged up. This line of questioning could inadvertently reveal more than Curt wanted to dig up, especially with Owen in the room.

 

Speaking of Owen, he seemed particularly pissed off, more so now that Yenen had fired off a jab at Curt. He took another step forward with a scowl drawn across his face.

 

“My partner was just playing a part,” Owen said, his voice dangerously low and slow. He was putting weight behind every word, his entire sentence measures and thought out. Curt, again, felt like he needed to shiver. The way Owen was sounding… it sent pinpricks of feeling all across Curt’s body. It left him with a warm feeling somewhere deep within his gut that twisted around in his stomach with each word Owen uttered.

 

Yenen tutted and shook his head, smiling. There was blood on his teeth.

 

“No, I don’t think so,” he said, causally, as if he was discussing what he’d eaten for dinner. His eyes shifted from Owen to Curt. Curt really did not like being held under those piercingly blue eyes. Then, in Russian, Yenen added, “He knew exactly where to put his hands.”

 

Curt flinched at that, risking a glance towards Owen to see if he understood what Yenen was not-so-subtly implying.

 

Owen didn’t look shocked or disgusted. He just looked very, very angry. Owen growled deep in his throat, and he limped forward another step. Despite his obvious injury, he looked like a man who was one wrong word away from snapping. Still, Yenen looked unperturbed. His resolve would have been impressive if it wasn’t so annoying.

 

“I’m about to put my hands around your throat if you don’t answer our questions,” Owen threatened. Curt’s mouth fell open in surprise, but he quickly shut it with an audible click. 

 

Yenen laughed, and his voice was growing steadily louder. He leaned his head back, clinking his chains as he did so, and raised an eyebrow at Owen. With a start, Curt realized that he was challenging him. He jerked his chin in Curt’s direction, his eyes still locked on Owen’s.

 

“Oh, couldn’t your lovely partner try that instead?” He added, mockingly, “I might like it.”

 

Owen, his bad leg tucked beneath him in a way that Curt assumed was painful, despite Owen giving no visible indication, crouched low beside him, leaning over him. Yenen was a tall man, but Owen was taller. Moreover, Yenen was sitting while Owen was kneeling, so Owen towered over him. He looked down at Yenen in disgust, his upper lip curling in contempt.

 

“The only reason he will have to ever touch you again is when he’s helping me shove your body into the river,” he spoke softly, but his voice carried even more weight to it than before. It was clear that Owen meant those words with every fiber of his being. 

 

What a terrible time to be aroused. Curt couldn’t help himself. This was a new side of Owen, one he’d rarely ever seen before, even in interrogations. There was a different sort of quiet rage behind Owen’s words, and it was catching Curt entirely off guard.

 

Yenen seemed to realize that he had little hope of making it out of this unscathed. He scowled, and it looked gruesome because his face was covered in the blood from his busted nose.

 

“You don’t really expect me to just tell you everything, do you?” Yenen asked, but his arrogance was fading. He was clearly running out of options.

 

“That would be nice,” Curt said with a shrug. Owen scoffed, turning to look at Curt, but his eyes were warmer, more affectionate. 

 

“Oh, please, Curt,” Owen said in mock exasperation. Curt shrugged, his smile widening.

 

Yenen looked between the two of them, his confusion apparent in his expression. He quirked an eyebrow up.

 

“What’s happening here?” He asked, his voice somewhere between bewildered and jumpy. He was likely starting to feel like a corner animal with no way out, and this was when Curt and Owen’s little dance would be most effective. 

 

“Well, you see, you’ve been captured by two of the world’s greatest spies,” Owen said, turning back to Yenen. His face melted back into that look of distaste, but his tone was cocky. 

 

“We’re going to get all the information we need out of you, one way or another,” Curt jumped in, sounding for the first time like someone not to be trifled with. Yenen glanced between the two of them rapidly, caught off guard by how in sync they were. Their ability to play off of one another was one of their finest skills, and it told Yenen that he was dealing with professionals.

 

“Yes, and we’ve no issue going through you—” Owen started.

 

“—to get to you boss, Luka—” Curt continued.

 

“—if we must.” Owen paused, once again looking back at Curt. He had a mischievous glint in his eye, one Curt knew well. He continued, “In fact—”

 

“—we might actually enjoy it.” Curt finished for him. 

 

Curt smiled at Owen, more than a little amused by their little show. It was as if Owen was another part of him, as if he knew every move Curt was going to make right before he made it. That was his Owen, always one step ahead, and Curt was once again astounded by how in tune they were in the field. It was one thing to have a partner that knew how he functioned in a fight. It was another thing entirely to have a partner who could play off of him in a conversation as easily as if it were a single person speaking through two mouths. He was damn lucky to have the notorious Owen Carvour by his side and luckier still that he and Curt worked so well together.

 

Luka leaned his head back against the pillar, closing his eyes.

 

“I’ll never tell you anything,” he said, bitterly. Curt wondered if his determination was out of fear or loyalty. Most low-level members of crime syndicates squawked on their bosses the moment they were caught. Yenen was holding out. 

 

Owen sighed, placing a hand on Yenen’s shoulder. It wasn’t a friendly gesture; he had a vice grip that made Yenen flinch. 

 

“I rather hoped you’d say that,” Owen said, darkly.

 

Curt crosses his arms. He stared down at Yenen as if he was nothing worthwhile, as if he was the dirt on the bottom of Curt’s boot.

 

“You see, we’ve got a bone to pick with your boss—” he said, trying to sound unbothered.

 

“—but he isn’t here right now.” Owen added, squeezing Yenen’s shoulder so hard that Yenen was grimacing, and his eyes were scrunched shut.

 

“I guess you’ll do,” Curt said with a shrug.

 

“Go. To. Hell,” Yenen spat in Russian. Curt moved a half step forward, ready to fire off another sarcastic response, but Owen held up a hand to stop him. He slowly turned his gaze from Yenen to Curt. There was something glinting in his eye, something Curt didn’t recognize. 

 

“Curt, would mind fetching me my jacket from the car?” Owen asked, clearly hiding something. Curt sputtered, but he tried to wrestle his expression back into nonchalance even as his confusion sprawled across his face.

 

“What? Why—”

 

“Please.” Owen sent him a sharp look. Curt didn’t know what it meant but he wasn’t about to argue with it. Without another word, he turned on his heel and left Owen alone with Yenen. 

 

The door to the outside slammed behind him, and Curt tried to think up reasons why Owen would want some alone time with Yenen. Owen was a skilled interrogator, that much was true, but he rarely sent Curt away in the middle of an interrogation. This was new, and he wasn’t sure exactly why it worried him.

 

Curt stepped towards the car, gravel from the parking lot crunching beneath his boots. His fingertips had just brushed the handle of the car door when he heard it. He’d know that sound anywhere.

 

A gunshot.

 

He raced back into the building, all thoughts of fetching Owen’s jacket disregarded. He threw the door open and sprinted towards where he’d left Owen with Yenen. If Owen was hurt he’d never forgive himself. He shouldn’t have left Owen alone with —

 

He stumbled to a stop right in front of Owen, who was holding his gun in his hand and staring down at the crumpled form of Yenen, who had a single gunshot wound in his forehead. Curt looked between Owen and Yenen frantically, wondering what he’d missed. 

 

Owen spoke before he had the chance to.

 

“There’s a gala in two days' time at the city’s art museum. Luka plans to be there to take out a rival. He used Yenen for tickets,” Owen said, calmly. He spoke like a man who’d just finished the morning’s paper, not like a man who’s just killed another person. Curt knew that they were both desensitized to the killing, it came with the job, but something about this seemed more personal to him. The normal protocol called for Owen and Curt to send a team to pick Yenen up, just in case he had more information to share.

 

Curt shook his head, letting the information that Owen was deadpanning wash over him. He would handle this new information first, and figure what had happened after that.

 

“Take out—? He plans to shoot someone in plain view?” Curt asked, trying to focus on the job at hand.

 

“No,” Owen said, carefully placing his gun in his pocket, wary of the still hot muzzle.  “He plans to blow the gala up.”

 

Curt did a double take at that, and he rubbed a hand along his jaw. Bombs were never any fun to deal with, and they certainly set him on edge.

 

Owen turned to leave, and Curt looked between him and the body before following after him. He couldn’t hold his tongue anymore. When they reached the door, Curt grabbed Owen’s arm, stopping him in his tracks.

 

“Why did you shoot him, O?” Curt asked, gesturing back to Yenen’s body. He shook his head . He didn’t want to sound accusatory, but he was confused. “We could have sent a team, sent someone from one of our agencies to—”

 

“He threatened to out you,” Owen cut him off. His eyes were hard and his expression was withdrawn. Curt blinked at him, startled. The cold feeling of dread settled in his stomach. 

 

“What?”

 

“He threatened to tell whoever picked him up that Agent Curt Mega is engaging in illegal homosexual activity,” Owen said bluntly, his voice hiding an anger that frightened Curt. He wasn’t angry at Curt, was he? 

 

“I… I mean—what, but I—” Curt couldn’t form a cohesive thought. This was not how he had wanted to come out to Owen. This was not how it was meant to go. He didn’t know what to say, lest accidentally confirm what Owen was no doubt assuming.

 

Owen seemed to recognize his distress and uncertainty. He uncrossed his arms and shook his head. 

 

“It doesn’t matter to me if you are or aren’t, Curt,” he said softly, honestly. Curt thought that his heart might burst. Owen’s lips pressed together in a hard line, and he looked back at Yenen’s crumpled form, watched as his blood wept from the hole in his head. “He wanted to ruin your career or get you arrested or whatever, and I wasn’t going to take that chance.”

 

“Oh,” Curt said, blinking. He didn’t know what else to say to that. He settled on, “Thank you.”

 

Owen nodded. He smiled, trying to break the tension.

 

“I will always have your back,” he said. He clasped a hand on Curt's shoulder and squeezed it tight. “No matter what.”

 

Curt smiled back, his chest tight.

 

No matter what.

Chapter Text

The car ride back to their motel was mostly silent. 

 

Curt drove, and Owen took the time to clean his weapon. It never took him very long at all to take apart and wipe down his sidearm, but he was being especially careful since the muzzle on his gun was still warm from being recently fired. Curt knew that the repetitive, familiar nature of the task of cleaning his firearm was grounding for Owen, comforting even. 

 

Curt glanced over at him, carefully. Owen had carried with him a strange look ever since their time with Yenen. It was beginning to weigh on Curt. He thought back to what Owen had said about his sexuality, about not caring either way. Curt wondered if Owen had, perhaps, spoken too soon. Maybe it was something that he really wasn’t sure about, or maybe it was Curt potentially being gay that he wasn’t sure about. Owen looked deep in thought, which was fairly normal, but his tightly drawn expression gave Curt pause.

 

Owen had said that it didn’t matter if Curt was gay or not. Curt was beginning to feel like it did.

 

It at least mattered to him that he told Owen, now. 

 

His secret was already halfway out of the bag, and he knew it would kill both him and Owen to remain in a limbo of uncertainty. Curt had to just get it out. He had to admit his sexuality to Owen. He’d rather Owen hear it from him. He needed Owen to hear it from him.

 

“O,” he said, the words tumbling from his mouth before his brain could overthink them and stop his confession. “Can we talk about what just happened.”

 

Owen paused, rubbing his thumb over the cloth he’d been using to shine his weapon. He glanced over at Curt, warily, clearly not wanting to jump into a conversation about anything at all.

 

“Look, I shot Yenen because I had to, and I’d do it again if—”

 

Curt shook his head, cutting Owen off.

 

“I wasn’t talking about that,” Curt said quietly. Owen paused and took a long, hard look at him. Curt felt naked beneath his gaze, stripped to the barebones of his being. Owen had old eyes, sorrowful eyes, eyes that were the most brilliant brown that Curt had ever seen. They were brown like the earth after a rainstorm, rich and lovely, carrying within them the power of earthquakes and the strength of stone. They were brown like coffee and spice, a beckoning of a long lost autumn and haunted by so much that was rarely spoken of. 

 

And, in the right light, those eyes were gold, gold, gold .

 

They were flecked with stolen sunshine, burning brighter and warmer than the stars. They were like pools of honey that could satisfy even Curt’s most incurable sweet tooth. They were as amber as whiskey, and—oh, god — Curt was drunk on them.

 

Owen cleared his throat, which pulled Curt from his musings.

 

“What were you talking about, then?” Owen asked, but the soft tone of his voice signaled to Curt that he knew exactly where Curt was going with this. Curt sighed, and shrugged his shoulders. He turned a corner and pulled into the parking lot outside their motel. After parking, he turned the key in the ignition, letting the car turn off, but he made no move to get out just yet. Neither did Owen, but he seemed to be waiting for Curt to speak.

 

Curt glanced around. They were in a dimly lit parking lot late in the evening, surrounded by concrete buildings and little else. The sun had set somewhere over the horizon, and the last rings of color from the sunset were quickly fading away just beyond their windshield. It wasn’t where Curt had pictured telling Owen. It certainly wasn’t how, either. 

 

Even still, he felt a deep ache in his chest that he knew stemmed from the concealment of his sexuality from Owen. Curt was tired of dancing around the subject with Owen. Walking the tightrope of what to say, when to say it, and how to say it, had grown exhausting. He trusted him more than anyone he’d ever met. He did not want to hide himself any longer. Not from Owen, at least.

 

“What Yenen was saying–was saying about… me,” Curt started, but his chest felt tight and his tongue turned to lead. He took a deep breath to try and calm himself. 

 

“Curt, you don’t have to do this,” Owen said, gently, and Curt felt a small relief knowing that Owen knew exactly what Curt was trying to say. Curt shook his head.

 

“No, I, uh, I want to.” Curt was looking everywhere but at Owen. His eyes remained mostly downcast, and he let his gaze slip over his hands in his lap, the steering wheel, the center console in the car, before eventually settling on a tiny tear in the fabric of Owen’s jeans by the knee. Owen said nothing, just waited patiently for Curt to continue. “Girls aren’t really… they’re not really my type.” 

 

“Okay,” Owen said simply. 

 

Curt could have left it there but, once he’d forced that much out of his mouth, the words didn’t seem to stop. He squeezed his eyes shut.

 

“I know that it’s not exactly, well, legal, and all, but I can’t help it, O,” Curt said, trying to quell the guilt that came with his sexuality. He usually had it under lock and key, buried deep within his mind, but he couldn’t stop the shame the rose in him as he admitted to Owen his deepest secret. “I tried to stop it, but it didn't work. I know you’re meant to turn me in or whatever because of this, but I swear to you that it doesn’t impact my ability to do my job.”

 

“Curt,” Owen said, with enough urgency that Curt opened his eyes and looked over at him. Curt’s breathing was rasping and halting, and he realized how close he was to sobbing. God, he felt weak. Now, beneath the gaze of those beautiful brown eyes, he was also feeling very, very small. Owen made sure that he had Curt’s undivided attention before he spoke again. “Okay.”

 

Curt blinked at him, taken aback. He’d expected… well, he didn’t really know what he had expected from Owen’s reaction, but he’d at least expected a, you know, reaction. Maybe anger or disgust, or perhaps mistrust. To have acceptance so readily given, to see Owen completely unbothered by this revelation, was beyond even what Curt had hoped for and fantasized about in the late nights he spent lying awake, listening to Owen’s breathing beside him. 

 

“Okay.” Curt’s voice broke. He felt a weight lift from his chest, the weight of a secret that he’d been carrying far too long. He searched Owen’s face for his feelings, but Owen was wearing that unreadable expression again. Tentatively, Curt asked, “This is okay?”

 

Owen nodded with a small, reassuring smile crossing his lips. He reached out, slowly, gingerly, as if expecting Curt to flinch away, and carefully wrapped his fingers around Curt’s wrist. He gave a gentle squeeze, mindful of the mostly healed wounds on Curt’s wrists left over from their time spent chained to one another.

 

“This is okay,” Owen affirmed. His hand fell away from Curt’s almost as soon as it had touched him, but there was a lingering warmth left behind that felt like it was prickling with electricity. Curt held his breath as Owen continued. “Your sexuality changes nothing. You are my partner. I trust you with my life. You are the best man I know. I will not hate you for who you love.”

 

Curt wanted to tell him right then and there that it was Owen whom Curt loved, more than anything. This was beyond what Curt ever could have dreamed of. Owen did not hate him. Owen was not disgusted by him. All was well.

 

Curt took a deep, shuddering breath, choking down the sob of relief that surged up from somewhere deep in his throat.

 

“Okay,” he whispered. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from Owen’s. “Thank you.”

 

Owen shook his head, smiling.

 

“You don’t need to thank me for keeping your secret,” Owen said. He paused, his grin faltering, before his gaze grew even more intense as he stared at Curt. “All I ask in return is that you keep mine as well.”

 

“What—” Curt stopped. 

 

Oh. Oh. 

 

Never in a million years had Curt expected this conversation to take this turn. He was floored for a minute, completely dumbfounded by the realization of what Owen was trying to tell him. He opened and closed his jaw several times over, looking very much like a blubbering fish out of water, but he didn’t have the mind to care. 

 

“Oh,” Curt said, finally. Then, a smile started to grow across his face. “Owen Carvour, your secret is safe with me.

 

Owen grinned at him, looking both relieved and exhausted, and Curt understood more in that moment than he ever had before. He briefly wondered if he should tell Owen about his feelings for him, but he ultimately decided that it wasn’t the time nor the place to push his luck. As Owen so often said, always end on a high note. This was good. Curt felt, for a moment, that everything was right in the world.

 

“As is your secret with me, Curt Mega,” Owen said, in that stupid, posh accent of his that made Curt’s heart sing. Then, his smile widened. “Now, let’s head inside. We’ve got a gala tomorrow night that we must rest up for.”

 

Curt laughed, shaking his head. He felt like he was in a daze, somewhere between awake and dreaming, and he was waiting for this happy feeling to come crashing down around him upon waking. And yet, time continued to pass, the sunset faded into an ink blue sky, and he didn’t wake. This was real, and it was perfect. 

 

They both stumbled out of the car, giddy with excitement from their revelations. 

 

Curt didn’t care about anything else in that moment other than Owen—his Owen who was apparently not as straight as Curt had believed, who was beautiful and kind, and who accepted and trusted him. 

 

Curt’s smile widened as another thought dawned on him:  maybe, just maybe, Curt’s feelings weren’t entirely one sided.

 

They climbed the stairs to their room, laughing and joking, but they collapsed into bed as soon as they reached their room, both exhausted. They were that giddy type of tired, the one where their eyes were heavy but their hands twitched with excitement. It had been a long day, but that didn’t mean it had been a horrible one. 

 

They fell asleep beside each other. Curt could not remember ever sleeping so peacefully.

Chapter Text

Curt had hoped that the air between would feel lighter once his secret was out. 

 

Unfortunately, once he and Owen had gone back up to their room, hastily gathering what they needed to get ready for the gala that evening, there had seemed to be something else between them, something new.

 

It was a quiet sort of something, but it simmered just beneath the surface. Curt felt the tension (how could he not, when it was thick as soup) but didn’t comment on it. He couldn’t figure out what was going on in Owen’s head, and he didn’t yet have the balls to ask. They had both dropped bombshells on one another—very large, very illegal, very gay bombshells—but neither was acting as if anything overly dramatic had occured. It was confusing, to say the least, but not unwelcome.

 

Still, that strange tension remained in Owen’s shoulders, in his face, and in the air between them.

 

Curt left an hour after they got back. 

 

They’d spent the time planning the evening and making calls to their respective superiors to get the clearance and paperwork they needed for the mission. They had, miraculously, managed to scrounge up nearly everything they needed—aliases with fleshed out backgrounds, as well as tickets to the event and fake IDs, although they were waiting on an A.S.S. field agent near by to deliver both of those in the next few hours. The only thing they were lacking was outfits for the occasion.

 

Owen was still dressed in his stolen t-shirt, jeans, and cargo jacket, complete with mud caked and blood spattered boots. Curt wasn’t complaining; he looked handsome, ruggedly so, but he also looked ready for a night out at the pub rather than an evening at a gala. Curt wasn’t fairing any better when it came to fashion at the moment, although he supposed he’d been attractive enough for Yenen. Regardless, they both needed suits (and probably a shower) for the mission, lest they risk sticking out like a sore thumb.

 

Hence why Curt left immediately following the outline of their plan. Owen had told him his approximate height, weight, and suit measurements, and then Curt had set out with some of the money that had been delivered to them in search of finerwear. He remembered passing a shop earlier in the week, a small boutique of sorts that was definitely struggling under soviet rule. Curt retraced his steps, keeping his head down and the collar of his jacket popped up to hide his face.

 

The bell chimed as he entered the tiny store. 

 

The one attendant within the store was an elderly man who was standing behind a counter in the back corner of the tiny corner store. Curt nodded to him but didn’t hold eye contact for very long. Instead, he busied himself with selecting two suits as quickly as possible. They only had an hour or so until the gala, and Curt wanted to be back in time to take a quick shower.

 

One suit in particular caught his eye. 

 

The jacket was midnight blue with black lapels, and it came paired with black trousers and a black vest. Curt quickly crossed the small, cluttered shop to check that it was around the right size for Owen (it was) before taking it off the rack and throwing it over his arm. He selected a plain white button up to go underneath it, as well as a black tie and matching oxfords. 

 

Curt glanced around the store once again. The clerk was still not paying him any attention, which Curt was thankful for. 

 

He found a simple suit set for himself—black button up, black trousers, black jacket, black tie—and shoes to match. Then, with his arms now full of fabric, he stepped up to the counter in the back to check out and pay for his haul. The man said something to him in Russian, but his voice was too gruff and his accent too thick for Curt to really understand, so he settled on nodding politely. 

 

Finally, after paying for the suits and getting them stashed away in two bags, Curt made his way back out onto the street and towards his motel. He climbed the stairs within the motel two at a time, still hoping to get a shower in somehow in the next thirty minutes before he knew Owen wanted to be leaving for the gala. Upon reaching the door to their room, Curt knocked thrice in a rhythm that was meant to alert Owen that it was him. He then opened the door and shuffled into the room. 

 

“Find everything?” Owen asked. Curt turned, and nearly fainted from the sight before him. Owen was standing, wearing nothing but the towel wrapped around his waist, at the entrance to the bathroom. He was brushing his teeth, and his hair was wet, suggesting that he’d just showered. 

 

“I think so,” Curt said, swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat. He set the bags on the bed, focusing very hard on keeping his eyes locked in Owen’s face and not his exposed chest or nearly exposed … well, everything else. He nudged the bag with the blue suit. “Your suit’s in here. I’m going to hop in the shower quickly before we leave.”

 

Owen nodded, and he ducked back into the bathroom to spit out the toothpaste in his mouth and then to deposit his toothbrush. Once he’d finished, he turned back and jerked his head in the direction of the bathroom.

 

“Do your best to hurry. Your A.S.S agent dropped off our tickets and IDs while you were out shopping. Oh, and MI6 landed a limousine for the evening to take us to the gala. It’ll be here in about twenty minutes,” Owen said, crossing the room towards the bed. Curt paused, startled.

 

“A limousine? How’d they manage that?”

 

“Well,” Owen started, a snarky grin spreading across his face, “we just seem to have better resources, I suppose.”

 

Curt scoffed.

 

“Yeah, right,” he said, grabbing the bag with his suit and shoes. “Well, enjoy your better resources out here for a bit, I need to shower and get changed.”

 

He saw Owen roll his eyes, but they were both still smiling.

 

Curt stepped into the bathroom and shut the door. It was still a bit steamy from; Owen must have just finished showering. Curt very quickly stripped and showered, using the cheap body wash and shampoo that had been provided by the motel. It felt good to wash the days dirt and grime from his body, but he didn’t have the time to savor the feeling of warm water and cleanliness. 

 

His shower was over almost as quickly as it’d begun. He stepped out of the shower and pulled the last towel off the rack. He dried his body off as best as possible before swiftly towel drying his hair. Then, he swiftly pulled on the black trousers and button up, which he tucked into his pants. Next, he slipped into his jacket and laced up his shoes. Glancing in the fogged you mirror, Curt slid a hand through his hair, wishing that he had access to hair gel and trying to slick it back to no avail. Sighing, shaking his head, he stepped out of the bathroom. 

 

Owen was leaning over the bed, his back to Curt, when he opened the door. It was fortunate that Owen wasn’t looking at him, too, because Curt felt like he couldn’t breathe all of a sudden. Owen looked damn good in a suit, and it made Curt’s chest feel tight. Curt felt light headed, and he leaned his shoulder into the doorframe to steady himself. 

 

“Nearly ready?” Owen asked, turning around finally. He seemed to pause, taking sight of Curt all dressed up for the first time in quite a while. His eyes traced over Curt’s body carefully, guarded and dark. After a heartbeat, he shook his head with a grin. “You look good, Curt.”

 

The comment caught him off guard. Curt, trying not to further embarrass himself that day, steeled himself and, after a deep breath, forced a smile to his face. 

 

“You do too, O,” he said, hoping that his tone carried all of his sincerity but none of his reverence. Being out to Owen was largely a good thing thus far, but it did make Curt worry that he would feel uncomfortable under what was misconceived as flirtatious advances. Curt knew that he needed to keep separate his fantasies and the realities of the situation. Owen May be alright with Curt’s sexuality, may even, in fact, be gay as well, but that didn’t mean that he was open to Curt trying to flirt with him. “Let’s go.”

 

Not that Curt would ever be able to flirt with Owen Carvour when one look at the man left him a speechless, stumbling mess.

 

“Here’s your ID and ticket,” Owen said as they crossed the room towards the door. Owen was still heavily favoring his uninjured leg, but his bad leg was healing up considerably well. He wasn’t limping about anywhere near as much as he had been in the days prior. 

 

They went down the steps and out through the main entrance, where a shiny black limousine was waiting in the parking lot. Curt said a quick hello to the driver in Russian, to which he got a nod. He knew the driver was MI6, which meant he likely didn’t want to be driving an American agent around. Curt tried not to take his icy attitude personally.

 

American agents weren’t exactly fan favorites amongst other agencies. Curt was used to the dislike.

 

Owen opened the rear door and slid in. Curt quickly made to follow as the driver hopped back into his seat to get situated. Curt noticed that the divider between them and the driver was not only pulled shut but also opaque, which offered him and Owen a fair amount of privacy. Pulling the door shut behind him, Curt tried to get settled in the seat beside Owen.

 

The limousine lurched forward, and Curt, who was still standing and trying to shuffle past Owen to get into his seat, was thrown to the ground.

 

Well, not exactly the ground. He was thrown off his feet and straight into Owen. 

 

Curt ended up half on his knees, his body straddled between Owen’s thighs. His chest was against Owen’s stomach, and his head smacked into Owen’s chest. Owen, to his credit, had reached out in an attempt to help steady Curt as soon as he saw him fall, but that just resulted in Owen’s arms wrapping tightly around Curt’s body. Curt gripped Owen instinctively, hugging him around the torso. 

 

Curt’s face flushed red, and he tentatively looked up at Owen. He was somewhere between embarrassed and frightened. This position, the way their bodies were pressed together was a very … intimate one. Curt didn’t know how Owen would react, even if it was accidental, now that he knew that Curt was gay. It could, of course, be misinterpreted as Curt trying to make a move, which he was far too terrified to do anyways.

 

For a moment, the limousine was silent, save for the noises of traffic just beyond the tinted windows.

 

Then, Owen threw his head back and laughed; it was a laugh from deep in his stomach and, because their bodies were still pressed together, Curt could feel it resonating in Owen’s chest. Curt spluttered, searching desperately for something to say but ultimately coming up empty.

 

“I think you just fell for me,” Owen said with a wink, and Curt felt blood rushing to his cheeks and, well, other areas as he stared up at Owen. He let out a tentative chuckle, but his eyes fell away from Owen’s. He could feel his muscles even beneath the layers of his suit, and it certainly wasn’t helping that Owen’s thighs were squeezing his sides to keep him steady. Curt felt trapped, engulfed in nothing but Owen, and it was both a terrible and exhilarating experience.

 

Carefully, Owen placed a hand on Curt’s back. At the contact, Curt’s eyes snapped to Owen’s face. 

 

“Slide to your left, it’ll be easier than trying to stand up here,” Owen said gently, a small smile on his lips. Curt did as he was told, and Owen used the hand on Curt’s back to help guide him as he tried to move off of him. 

 

Unfortunately, the limousine tore through a stoplight and turned rapidly to left, throwing Curt to the right. He tumbled right back into Owen, although this time he was on his knees completely, his arms wrapped around Owen’s waist and his face very nearly slamming into Owen’s right hip. Owen grabbed his shoulders, helping him brace himself as the limousine steadied back into driving in a straight line.

 

“Sorry, I’m trying to get off,” Curt said very quietly, his eyes locked on Owen’s face because, if he dared lower them, he’d be staring at Owen’s… well, his crotch. He saw Owen’s lips quirk up into a small smirk at his words. Curt scrunched his eyes closed in embarrassment, realizing that the phrasing wasn’t exactly stellar given his current position. “That–that’s not what I–what I meant.”

 

For a breath, it was silent, and then he felt Owen’s grip on his shoulders tighten ever so slightly.

 

“Isn’t it?”

 

Curt opened his eyes, forcing himself to stare up at Owen. He didn’t know how much deeper his face could flush, but it seemed to keep getting warmer and warmer as this situation played out.

 

“I’m trying to get off on you—of you! I’m trying to get off of you,” Curt wanted to bury his head in his arms. This was mortifying. Instead, he just took a deep breath to calm himself, trying very hard not to focus on the feeling of Owen’s legs around his whole body. “I–sorry.”

 

“Feeling a little flustered, Mega?” Owen asked, smiling. 

 

“Well, it’s not everyday that I end up between my partner’s legs,” he said without really thinking. Curt had, for better or for worse, slipped into using his usual coping mechanism. Normally, he fell back on his charm and his quick wit whenever he felt uncomfortable. Curt Mega was a man who always knew what to say and when to say it, who always had a clever quip up his sleeve. 

 

“Is it such a bad place to be?” Owen asked, his voice low. His hands shifted from Curt's shoulders to his face. Owen’s hands rested beneath his chin while his thumbs brushed along Curt’s jawline. His hands were cold, but they left a trail of warmth where his fingers met his skin. 

 

Curt froze, wide eyed, like a deer in the headlights of a car. He scanned over Owen’s face, searching for a clue as to whether Owen meant what he was saying, or if he was just trying to start another round of bantering.

 

“Owen, what are you asking me?” He asked hesitantly, dazed and a little confused. He was still squeezed between Owen’s legs, held in place so he wouldn’t be jostled about, arms wrapped around his waist, and now Owen had taken his face in his hands. This felt like a dream, and he was afraid of it turning into a nightmare.

 

Owen’s face softened at Curt’s uncertainty, and he dropped his hands back to Curt’s shoulders. He leaned back, shaking his head.

 

“I—”

 

He didn’t have the chance to say. The limousine came to a harsh stop. They had reached their destination.

Chapter Text

While Curt Mega and Owen Carvour had been the ones to enter the limousine that night, two entirely different men stepped out.

 

That evening, for the gala, Curt would be masquerading as Igor Ivanoski, a proud and suave businessman of St. Petersburg. It was a completely falsified alias, which gave Curt quite a bit of wiggle room, but he settled into his character quick enough. He pulled back his shoulders. He straightened his tie. He let his face be clouded by a neutral expression that was neither unpleasant nor welcoming. Floating somewhere between approachable and aloof would be his best bet at blending in with the big money names that would be mingling tonight. 

 

Curt imagined shoving his true self into a box, then slamming the lid and turning the key. It was a mental exercise that he used often. Sometimes, it could be difficult to disentangle oneself from their many disguises, from all the other people they’d been. Curt knew that, in order to protect his identity, he needed to lock it away. Tonight, he was Igor Ivanoski. 

 

He knew Owen was doing a similar thing in his head. Curt could practically see the light behind his eyes changing, turning more mischievous and youthful. 

 

Owen would be playing the part of the young Dmitri Hertzog, an art curator who had been born to a Russian mother and a German father. The mixed heritage would hopefully explain away the poor accent, especially since Owen’s German accent was far superior to his shoddy attempts at a Russian one. His job description was just snooty enough to be worth being at the gala this evening, but low key enough that he could slip through conversations mostly unnoticed. 

 

Curt and Owen, Igor and Dmitri, stepped away from the limousine with only a passing wave at the driver. They didn’t stand too close to one another, and they definitely didn’t speak about what had occured within the limousine, itself. There was no need at this point. They needed to be focused on the task at hand, or they’d end up dead…  or worse.

 

The limousine had dropped them at the steps leading up to the doors to the banquet center that the gala was being held in. The building was set back several acres on a large piece of property, and the huge yard was immaculately cut. There was a small loop that all of the limousines were stopping in, which was where Curt and Owen had been dropped. In the center of the loop was a stone fountain that was illuminated by lights in the ground. The building was nothing special on its own (if you discounted the fact that it was maybe fifty times the size of Curt’s tiny apartment back in the United States), but the ornate detailing in the wrought iron railing that circumvented the building coupled with the orderly brickwork that made up the façade screamed old money, the kind of money most families in the Soviet Union did not have. 

 

Owen and Curt made their way up the stairs, taking time to converse casually about the evening air and a potential business deal for Ivanoski in the coming spring. 

 

When they reached the propped open doors, they were stopped by the two security guards on either side of the main entrance. They were both muscular beneath their cheap suits, and Curt could make out the outlines of at least one gun each hidden in both of their waistbands, likely in a small, discreet holster. After blocking their path, the two guards glanced back into the building. 

 

As if on cue, a skinny weasel of a man slipped out holding a leather bound, black book, looking very stressed and very sleazy. His balding, greying hair was slicked back with so much gel that Curt wondered if he ever really planned to get it all out at the end of the night (or ever). His suit looked expensive but fit him loosely, as if he’d lost weight recently or hadn’t gotten a properly fitted suit. He smiled at the two men before him, and Curt noticed that he was missing an incisor on the left side of his mouth. It seemed to make his canines appear more prominent, sharper.

 

He gave Curt the creeps.

 

“Ah, welcome gentlemen. May I have your names, please?” The man asked in Russian.

 

Shit, Curt though. A guest list.

 

Owen must have known something he didn’t, though, because he stepped forward casually and, in that odd, half-German half-Russian accent, spoke to the weasel man who was missing a tooth and looking over them cautiously.

 

“The reservation for our tickets should be under the names Hertzog and Ivanoski.” Owen spoke with an air of nonchalance that held just enough authority that, had Curt been any other patron, he would not have questioned him. 

 

The man before them seemed skeptical still, which set Curt on edge, and he scanned them up and down with his eyes as if looking for some visual clue as to who they were and what they were hiding. Apparently finding nothing visibly wrong with them, he flipped his book open and traced down the list of names with his bony pointer finger.

 

“Ah, yes. You’re on my list after all,” the man said, shutting his book of names with so much force that it made a dull thud upon closing. His distrustful expression gave way to a fake smile that split his face strangely, somewhere between snakelike and catlike. “I hope you enjoy your stay at the third-annual Moscow Charity Art Gala this evening.”

 

Whatever that grin reminded him of, it gave Curt the creeps, and he instinctively shifted a little bit closer to Owen for a brief second, before returning the man’s smile. The man stepped aside, allowing Owen and Curt to slip past and into the foyer of the old building. 

 

The front foyer was large and shaped like an oval, with marble floors and white walls. In the center of the room, a crystal chandelier hung from the tall ceiling, and there was a staircase on both the left and the right that seemed to lead to a second floor. The main foyer had three arched openings—one left, one right, and one straight ahead, between the stairwells—that likely led to the other rooms of the building. All around, elegantly dressed people were standing, walking, and mingling, and there were at least two men in plain black suits that passed by holding trays of champagne glasses.

 

Curt was momentarily floored by the extravagance of it all. The building seemed to be an old mansion that had been turned into an art museum of sorts, although Curt couldn’t quite tell what was an exhibit and what wasn’t in the foyer because everything just looked… beautiful. 

 

Then, he turned and caught sight of Owen, who looked downright regal in his midnight blue suit, and he was suddenly struggling to breathe.

 

Beautiful.

 

Curt shook his head. He needed to be focused tonight. He couldn’t let his schoolboy crush fuck up all of his and Owen’s hard work setting this up. To clear his mind, he cleared his throat. When Owen turned slightly to look at him, Curt shook his head slightly, before nodding to a side of the entryway where they could stand, for the moment, unnoticed.

 

“How’s you get us on that list?” Curt asked, snagging two glasses of champagne from a waiter who was expertly navigating the crowd. He passed one of the glasses off to Owen.

 

Owen shrugged, but his smug grin told Curt that he was rather proud.

 

“Like I said before,” he said coolu, his British accent replaced by this hybrid Russian-German one. His eyes traced over the mingling crowd of people before stopping to linger on Curt. “MI6 just has better resources than the American Secret Service.”

 

“Better resources? I’ll admit, maybe,” Curt said with a smirk. “But we’ve clearly got the better agents.”

 

Owen scoffed at that, taking a small sip from his glass.

 

“Oh, please.”

 

Curt threw back half his glass of champagne, ignoring the raised eyebrow that action got from Owen. Just before Curt finished the glass, Owen slapped him in the shoulder, clearly trying to get Curt to slow down or stop drinking altogether.

 

“Relax, Hertzog ,” Curt said, putting emphasis on the cover name. “We A.S.S. agents also have far a superior alcohol tolerance than MI6.”

 

Owen snorted. 

 

“Shut up and mingle, Ivanoski.”

 

Chapter Text

Curt was in his element. 

 

Even before he was a qualified field agent, he was a smooth talker and an easy charmer. He’d long since mastered the art of a winning smile and well placed compliment. He knew his methods were considered… unconventional by most, but he found that his charisma rarely failed him in undercover ops like this. 

 

Part of the reason for that was, perhaps, because acting cocky was true to his personality. After all, it was easiest to deceive others into believing his act was genuine when he was allowed to act like himself. Curt wore his arrogance like armor and used his wit like a weapon, regardless of the time or place. It was easiest to operate when he kept others at arm's length. He charmed them enough to hold them close, but he also remained bothersome enough to force them not to get too close. It was as if he was constantly dancing along barbed wire:  keeping others out to keep himself safely trapped inside. It was others’ prerogative to think him stupid or immature. Their assumptions protected him.

 

It certainly helped that he didn’t have to ever worry about falling for any of the women whose hearts he captured (and swiftly broke). 

 

Curt had, at some point, wandered into the main ballroom of the building, at which point he got swept up dancing with several different women who were clearly trying to catch his fancy. Curt used their insistence to dance to better survey the large, circular room. 

 

As he spun around woman after woman for song after song, he let his eyes wander around the room. There was a brilliant, glass chandelier hanging from the domed ceiling, and it was refracting light around the room in a way that seemed to make everything glitter. The floor was a light tile of some kind—marble, perhaps—and the walls were painted the same white as the foyer. 

 

There were at least a hundred people in the ballroom alone, milling about. Most were dancing with a partner to whatever tune the small jazz band in the far corner of the room was playing, but several still were flittering about along the edges of the room and conversing heartily with champagne flutes in hand.

 

What caught Curt’s eye the most, however, was the artwork.

 

There were labeled exhibits lining the walls, and each one had a plaque that listed the name of the piece, the artist, and its current starting bid. Curt suspected, due to the sheer amount of diverse work laid out and the type of people—mob bosses, politicians, and basically anyone else who was crooked and wealthy—who seemed to be at the gala, that much of the artwork, a majority of which were canvas paintings, had been stolen from their original owners.

 

 As he twirled some random Russian beauty around to the waltzing medley being played by the jazz band, Curt noticed one painting in particular that stood out. He’d seen a photo of it before, in a case file on a colleague’s desk back at A.S.S. Headquarters. It had been stolen several years prior, sometime during World War II, after which it had slipped between the cracks and was never seen again.

 

The painting itself was unremarkable—it simply depicted an old man on a rocky beach looking out across the sea forlornly—but Curt remembered the story behind it more than anything. It had been the artist’s depiction of something unattainable, something just beyond reach, like the horizon. For the artist, who Curt remembered to be a man of Jewish faith, that unattainable something had been peace in a time of great suffering. 

 

Curt remembered feeling lucky when he’d first seen that artwork some four, five years ago. He also remembered feeling insignificant. How could he compare his plights to that of a man who’d lost everything? 

 

On the most basic level, Curt could understand what it was to be persecuted for something that you cannot control. Faith was, after all, such an intrinsic part of human nature that it was impossible to separate from one’s personality. A man could no more choose his faith than he could his color or his sexuality. Faith was something that crashed over all people in waves from whatever deity they believed in, drowning them in belief and belonging whilst also washing away their doubts. Even atheists, who believed in no god, had faith in their predictions that there existed no higher power. 

 

Curt knew what it was to be hated for something that others disagreed with. It made his heart ache to think of those who had been lost due to malice and a refusal to understand.

 

He could not remember if the artist had survived the Second World War. He found himself hoping that he had. 

 

Curt twirled the woman he was dancing with. He pushed thoughts of hatred and wars out of his mind. Then, like the old man looking out across the sea, Curt allowed himself a moment to steal a glance at Owen, who was across the floor and talking with a group of men at the edge of the room. 

 

It wasn’t abnormal that Curt would end up wooing the ladies whilst Owen made conversation with the men. Curt’s superficial charm, despite being incredibly useful when working with women, often came on too strong for it to be any use when it came to men. Owen always came off as more approachable, and he held himself with a seriousness and an air of authority that oftentimes garnered the attention of most other men in the room. 

 

Curt felt a pang of jealousy as he watched Owen laugh with a Russian businessman who was standing just a little too close. He pushed it down.

 

As if sensing Curt’s eyes on him, Owen looked up and over across the hall. He gave Curt a small smile, and he tapped his nose briefly. 

 

To anyone else, the gesture might have been written off as Owen itching or wiping his nose quickly. Curt, however, knew that signal. It was how Owen told him to steady on, that everything was going well.

 

In response, Curt removed his hand from the small of his dance partner’s back. He gave a gentle tug on his earlobe, similar to how a woman might fix her earring, to signal his own general success, and then he tore his eyes away from Owen.

 

The music slowed as the song changed. Curt stepped back from the woman he’d been dancing with and gave her a small bow. Then, he politely excused himself to go grab a glass of champagne. In actuality, Curt just wanted an excuse to step back and observe what was going on. 

 

He was trying to keep his mind on the mission and his eyes on the prize, but his eyes kept getting drawn back to Owen, who was, in Curt’s mind, dazzling the room. 

 

The band had started playing something slower, something more regal and proud, and Curt couldn’t help but associate the swelling tune with the way Owen held himself, the way he smiled, the way he moved. Owen was damn near kingly in the navy blue suit, and he stood with his back straight and his posture commanding.

 

Curt thought back to that brief time they’d spent in the limousine on their way to the gala. He’d been commanding then, too, albeit in a gentler manner. Curt was reminded again of how it felt to be unable to breathe, which had both nothing and everything to do with the way Owen’s legs had wrapped around his torso. 

 

If Curt wasn’t such a coward, he reckoned he would have kissed Owen right then and there, consequences be damned. A part of him wanted to drag Owen out of the gala, to forget about the under the table deal to sell bombs and to forget about Luka entirely, just so that Curt could slam him into the wall back in the hotel room, take him by the lapels of his suit, and kiss him until they were both breathless and gasping. Curt thought of Owen’s hands, which had held his face steady just under an hour ago. He imagined those hands grabbing at his hands, at his shoulders, at his hips, grabbing at anything they could reach. He imagined being back between Owen’s legs (in an entirely different context this time). He imagined those lips against his own, and Owen’s warm brown blinking up at him through his lashes.

 

He imagined and he yearned and he wanted and he ached, he ached, ached. 

 

A familiar tune swelled within the room with a melody that was slow and sweet and so achingly familiar. Curt’s head snapped back to where he’d seen Owen just a second ago. This time, Owen was looking back, a true smile lighting up his face.

 

And then Owen was crossing the room, heading straight towards Curt.

Chapter Text

Owen held Curt’s gaze as he approached. 

 

As he moved across the floor, he snagged two champagne flutes from a waiter who was milking about with a tray of glasses. His expression was neutral, but his posture was welcoming and relaxed. Then, upon stepping up directly in front of Curt, Owen offered him one of the champagne flutes. 

 

Curt reached out to take the glass from Owen at the exact moment that Owen adjusted his grip on the glass. Their knuckles brushed. Curt felt his face flushing. He jerked his hand back, spilling a little champagne as he did so. Owen quirked an eyebrow at the action, but he elected to remain silent. 

 

They both turned their gazes back to the ballroom floor in front of them, and they took equally small sips of champagne as they watched the people around them.

 

Finally, after several moments spent in quiet, Curt spoke.

 

“Anything?” He asked, his voice barely raised above a whisper. He kept his face neutral but not unpleasant. To anyone looking, it would appear that Curt and Owen were having a friendly conversation.

 

“I’ve spoken to most of the men in the room and, despite the fact that they’re all assholes, I don’t think any of them have anything to do with arms dealing or the buying or a bomb.”

 

“Well,” Curt said, a small smile slipping across his features as the first chorus of Bye, Bye, Blackbird began to echo around the ballroom, “at least they’re playing some good music.”

 

Owen gave him a strange, unreadable look but, before he could say anything, two women—one blonde, one brunette— stepped up to them. They were both giggling and very clearly more than a little tipsy, and Curt immediately threw a charming grin across his lips. 

 

“Hello, ladies,” he said with a wink, to which the two women giggled even more. 

 

“Care to join us for a slow dance, boys?” The blonde one said, touching Curt’s arm delicately. She drew a line down from his bent elbow to his hand, before grabbing the champagne glass in his grip and discarding it on the table behind him. A quick glance at Owen told Curt that the brunette had pulled the same trick on Owen. 

 

Now, empty handed, the two men were pulled out onto the dance floor. Blondie immediately crashed her body into Curt’s, and she gripped his waist and lifted her hand to his. They were swaying in time to the slow rhythm, and she laid her head on his shoulder. Curt struggled not to sigh. He needed to turn the charm back up instead of dwelling on how much he wished that he was dancing with Owen instead.

 

 He looked over his dance partner’s shoulder. There, five or six feet away, was Owen, who was holding the brunette tight to his chest. He was staring back at Curt, a small smile on his face.

 

Curt tried not to think about the song that was playing and the meaning it held in his heart.

 

It was a losing battle. Curt knew he clung to every melody that left Owen’s lips. He acted as if his words were water, and Curt was a man dying of thirst. He could drown himself in Owen. He tried to think of a sound that could be better than Owen’s whispers in his ear, and thought to himself that maybe, just maybe, the only thing that could possibly be better was the thought of how his lips would taste against his own. 

 

Curt knew from the musings of previous partners that he, himself, tasted like whiskey and bad decisions, but he doubted Owen would be anything as crass. He guessed that Owen would taste like a southern summer—warm, sickly sweet, and feverish. 

 

Curt tried not to call in love. He really did. In the end, he fell prey to the ache in his heart that swelled in time to that beautiful song, and he could no longer deny what he’d known all along.

 

He was in love with Owen Carvour. He was so beyond in love. He was ready to live and die for the man. This wasn’t a crush. This wasn’t a phase. This was the end all, be all. Never again would Curt be able to love without thinking of Owen’s lips, of Owen’s eyes, without thinking of Owen, Owen, Owen .

 

Curt didn’t know why it struck him so deeply to realize the extent of his love for his partner. 

 

With Owen staring back at him, smiling like a school boy at recess time, it struck him that he should have realized much earlier that this went deeper than any crush he’d ever had before. 

 

Curt sighed, letting himself smile back at Owen from over his date’s shoulder. He supposed it would soon be time to face the music, to own up to his feelings and admit to Owen (and himself) just how far this went. He owed it to Owen to do just that. For now, though, with Bye, Bye, Blackbird echoing around the ballroom and the singer’s slow, sensual singing filling the room, Curt allowed himself to share in that small spark of happiness he saw in Owen.

 

For a moment, Curt tricked himself into thinking that he was actually dancing with him, instead of some nameless Russian beauty.

 

When their song (when did Curt start referring to it as theirs?) came to an end and another, more upbeat one began, both Curt and Owen bowed to their dance partners and then proceeded to walk them to the edge of the room so that they may find another person to dance with. Curt kept an eye on Owen even as he said his goodbyes to the lovely lady he’d just danced with. Owen was smiling politely, and he seemed more at ease then than he had the whole night.

 

Curt’s eyes remained on Owen, even as two men whispering tensely to one another passed him and blocked his view of his partner for a split second.

 

“Ten minutes,” Curt heard one of the men say to the other in Russian. “Get clear.”

 

Curt’s heart dropped into his stomach, and cold dread settled beside it in his gut as he caught another piece of their conversation.

 

“Go tell Luka,” the other man said, “the bomb’s in place.”

 

And then the men had slipped past Curt and were out of earshot.

 

 Owen was still smiling at Curt, but his face dropped when he saw the abrupt change of expression on Curt’s face that had taken place in the time that it had taken for the men walking in front of Curt to pass. 

 

Owen quickly stepped towards Curt and, upon nearing him, reached out to grab his shoulder comfortingly. He tried to find Curt’s gaze, but Curt was too busy following the two men who’d walked past him with his eyes.

 

“What?” Owen asked, staring at Curt intently. “What is it?”

 

“Luka isn’t selling a bomb at this gala,” Curt said tersely, his voice barely louder than a whisper, “the gala is the bomb.

Chapter Text

Owen stared at Curt. His lips pressed together until they were just a thin line, and his expression hardened into that unreadable expression that he slipped behind whenever there was a job to do.

 

“Are you sure?” He asked in English, forgoing the continued use of his undercover accent. His voice was barely loud enough to be heard over the jazz band that was still playing loudly. It seemed that the music had quickened with Curt’s pulse because an upbeat, bouncing tune had taken over the room.

 

Curt nodded, his shoulders tended. He started moving along the edge of the room, his attention still focused on the two men quickly exiting.

 

“I think so,” Curt filled Owen in with a hushed but urgent voice. Tall guy with the beard and short guy with the red undershirt made a comment about the bomb being set as they walked by.”

 

“Shit,” Owen muttered. He looked across the room until he spotted who Curt was following.

 

“And,” Curt continued, “They mentioned Luka.”

 

Owen stumbled, and Curt wondered if just the name of their former captor sent a wave of pain straight to Owen’s knee.

 

Shit .”

 

Curt shared his sentiment.

 

“Alright,” Curt said, after a beat. “We need a new plan.”

 

Owen’s jaw flexed. He looked stressed, and Curt really couldn’t blame him. Explosives were very tricky things, and they had left both of them with more than a few close shaves and scars.

 

“I’ll try and stop Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, you see if you can find the bomb,” Owen said sharply, taking charge. Curt nodded, turning in his heel to head back towards where the men had come from.

 

“On it!” 

 

“Curt!” Owen grabbed his arm, stopping him in his tracks. Curt faltered, staring up at Owen with wide eyes. The way Owen was looking at him only served to make his already hammering heart beat even faster. “Check in every couple of minutes.”

 

He tapped Curt’s watch. Curt nodded.

 

“Right.”

 

“And Curt—” Owen adjusted his grip on Curt’s wrist so that their palms met and fingers interlaced. “Stay alive.”

 

“‘Course,” Curt said, giving Owen a tight lipped smile. He squeezed his hand once before letting go. “You too, O.”

 

Then, Curt took off in the direction from whence the two men had come. He figured the best place to search for the bomb would be in the opposite direction of where the two men were going. Curt wasn’t entirely sure where they’d come from, but his best guess was that it was from the hallway that led to the restrooms. 

 

Curt all but sprinted towards the bathrooms. He ignored the weird glances thrown his way by some in the crowd. He didn’t care about his undercover persona anymore. 

 

The hallway was lined with windows and tables that held decorative art pieces. Curt rushed past them in favor of heading towards the toilets. At the end of the long, straight hall, he found them, and he ducked into the men’s room so quick that he nearly tripped. 

 

He slammed open every (thankfully) empty stall. Nothing. He checked under each and every urinal, toilet, and sink. Nothing. He dug around in the trash. Nothing.

 

Cursing to himself, Curt made the split second decision to go into the ladies room. It was a mirror image of the men’s restroom, but where the men's room had had urinals, the women’s room had extra sinks. Curt kicked in each stall door, one of which had a woman inside who started yelling at him in a language he vaguely recognized as Bulgarian. Curt didn’t even bother to apologize; he was too preoccupied.

 

He checked the room with the same thoroughness that he had the men’s room, only to come up empty. 

 

“Nothing in the bathrooms, Owen,” Curt said into his watch after signalling his partner. “Checking the hallway now.” 

 

“Heard. Still chasing our two friends,” Owen’s response crackled through the watch’s speaker. Curt nodded to himself. 

 

He ran out from the restrooms and turned his head down the hallway. There, at the very end of the hallway, only a few paces over had Curt turned the right way upon leaving the ballroom, was a single man on his knees attending to something under a display table. 

 

Curt started running towards him.

 

“What are you doing?” Curt shouted, keeping his eyes locked on the man just ahead of him. The man looked up, a snarl on his face. He shoved whatever he was messing with back under the table and took off around the corner and into the ballroom. 

 

“Stop!” Curt shouted, running towards the man. He repeated his order in Russian.  He paused briefly to look at the large contraption wired up under the table. Curt balked, his heart leaping into his throat. What looked to be at least fifteen or twenty pounds of semtac were wired together underneath the table. Curt made the decision to go after the man because his bomb diffusing expertise started and ended with Barb telling him what to do. He didn’t think he had enough time to call Barb and fill her in so, instead, he took off after the runaway man.

 

“I have eyes on the bomb,” Curt said into his watch. “I’m going after the man who set it up.”

 

“Curt, wait!” He heard Owen yell through the speaker, but he ignored him. 

 

Curt turned the corner and began sprinting towards the man he’d seen kneeling by the bomb earlier. He had to shove through people just to get through, but he ignored their annoyed outbursts in favor of focusing on the chase. The man was halfway across the ballroom floor already, but Curt was gaining on him. 

 

“Stop!” Curt shouted once more just as the man reached the exit that Owen had gone through earlier. This time, the man turned around for a half moment, just in time for Curt to hear the man’s watch beep.

 

A flash of white blinded him.

 

Then, all Curt could register at first was the burning. It felt as if his skin was melting right off of his breaking bones. The heat ripped across his body with a ferocity he’d never before experienced, and he could think of nothing but the fire across his skin.

 

The next thing he clocked was the ache in his ribs. His whole body was bent in an odd, mangled position. He collided with something hard (was it the ground?) and all the air was knocked from his lungs. He tried to heave in a breath but, between the spasming of his diaphragm and the amount of dust and debris that immediately coated his tongue, he could only manage a weak cough.

 

For a moment, it was quiet.

 

Then, the world slammed back into focus. Several people were screaming, crying. Curt wondered if he was one of them. His arms and back stung from what he could only guess was shrapnel from the bomb or debris from the building that was now crumbling around him. 

 

Curt forced himself to stand, and he staggered around the person next to him. He glanced down at her, trying to reach out a hand to help the woman up. It was the woman he’d danced with earlier, he realized with a start. Her unseeing eyes stared blankly at the ceiling, and blood trickled down from her nose, her lip, and a giant gash in her neck. 

 

Curt stumbled over her, forcing down a choked cry of shock. His chest felt as if it was caving in. A cough raked through his body, and it was as if sandpaper was ripping up his throat and lungs. 

 

The ringing in ears joined the cacophony of screams and crying from the people around him. He ignored them. He couldn’t focus on the dead right now. He needed to find the man. 

 

Another thought broke through to the forefront of his mind. His priority quickly shifted as panic began to break through his stunned silence.

 

Curt felt something warm dripping from his eyebrow. He wiped it away, ignoring the stinging on his brow bone as he did so.

 

“Owen,” Curt mumbled, his voice raspy. “ Owen.”

 

His vision dipped a final time, and darkness claimed him.

Chapter Text

When Curt came to, he couldn’t move. 

 

At first, he thought he’d just been more injured by the bomb than he originally anticipated, but he quickly realized that his limbs weren’t lifting because they were being held down by whatever rope was tied around his wrists. After a few moments spent gathering his thoughts, he realized he was bound to a chair. He looked up and around the room, ignoring the ache in his chest. 

 

“Ah, you’re awake,” a voice to his left said. Curt tried to strain his neck to see the speaker, but he was just out of eyesight. Curt pulled against the bindings that we’re keeping his hands pinned to the armrests of the chair. “Then we can start.”

 

Curt didn’t answer the man. Instead, he kept writhing against his restraints. He had a very, very bad feeling about this.

 

“Let’s begin—” the man circled around, revealing himself to Curt. It was the same man that he’d been chasing earlier— “with who you really are, Mr. Ivanoski.”

 

Curt glanced up at him, forcing his expression to be one of confusion.

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

The man lashed his hand out quicker than Curt had anticipated would be possible.

 

Curt felt the hand around his neck more than he saw it; his vision was blurred with tears that had sprung to his eyes from both the pain and the dust in the air that had been dislodged in the explosion. The hand holding his head up squeezed tightly, and Curt felt himself choking. He tried to get away, tried to kick his legs or push himself out of harm’s way, but he’d been tied down to the chair too thoroughly to move anything but his legs, which were currently flailing, kicking aimlessly at the body that was forced between them. Instead of fighting off the vice grip on his throat, he just managed to wiggle around enough to annoy the man into tightening his hold. He felt the chair he was tied to tip back on to the back two legs, and Curt’s feet left the ground. Still, he writhed with all his might, desperate to break free. When even that felt futile, what with the crushing weight of the man’s hand wrapped around his throat and the feeling of weightlessness in his stomach that reminded him of the way his stomach would lurch on a roller coaster just before it dropped, Curt gave up on trying to break free and instead wrapped his legs around the man’s torso, hoping to prevent to man from tipping him over completely. Curt’s vision began to dip and swim. 

 

The pressure on his windpipe grew more intense. He couldn’t breathe—oh, god— he couldn’t breathe. 

 

Then, the pressure relaxed, and the chair slammed back down onto all four legs. 

 

Curt coughed violently, his body lurching unnaturally as he was thrown forward in the chair, as soon as he was allowed to breathe again. He took in several gasping, spluttering, deep breaths, and each one felt like sandpaper ripping up and down his throat. 

 

“Let’s try this again,” he heard the man in front of say. “Who are you really, Mr. Ivanoski?”

 

“I don’t—” another round of coughing racked through Curt’s body— “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

 

His voice sounded raspy, as if he’d swallowed a whole pack of lit cigarettes. He heard shuffling around him, following a muted conversation that he couldn’t make out. He blinked rapidly, trying to clear away the tears from his eyes so that he could actually see what was going on, to no avail.

 

Then, on a whim, Curt screamed. He screamed with every fibre of his being, ignoring the burn in his throat as he did so, hoping that Owen would hear him, that he would come to his rescue.

 

The back of the man’s hand connected with his face so violently that the chair he was sitting in moved a few inches over. The blow stunned him, momentarily silencing Curt.

 

The hand returned to his face, gripping tightly around his jaw and mouth to hold his face steady for whatever was about to happen, whatever pain was about to be inflicted. The man smelled of something familiar, something oily and sharp, and his fingers rubbed against his skin harshly where callouses covered his palm. 

Lithium grease, Curt realized. Coupled with the callouses he knew only a bomb maker would grow, he guessed that this man had made the bomb that went off.

 

His detective work came to a screeching halt as another backhand broke across his cheek.

 

He felt someone behind him pulling at something around his neck, the fingers rough and calloused against his skin. It was his tie that they were after, he realized. They pulled it loose after a second of fumbling. 

 

Curt, for a moment, feared that it might be used to strangle him. He was no stranger to suffocation,— it was a tactic commonly used in interrogations, after all—but that didn’t make it any less painful, nor the fear of it occurring any less terrifying. 

 

It became clear that suffocation was not the immediate goal because, a moment later, something that felt like balled up fabric was shoved roughly into his mouth.

 

Still, Curt felt like he was suffocating. As the fabric pressed back into his throat, restricting his breathing so much that he choked, unable to bring in air, Curt gagged so violently that he feared he might retch. He was thankful when the burn of the bile that fizzled up in his throat died out just before reaching the back of his mouth. Vomiting all over himself at a time like this would have been both disgusting and dangerous; after everything he’d survived as a spy, all his close calls and brushes with death, he could think of no more a humiliating way to go out than choking on his own sick. 

 

The terrible realization that the rough, cotton material in his mouth did not at all feel like the smooth silk of his tie only added to his panic. He prayed that whatever had been unceremoniously shoved into his mouth was a rag, of sorts, or a piece of discarded cloth. He knew from the terrible taste of it on his tongue, however, that it was likely a sock, taken off of one of his captors. He gagged, again, sickened by the thought. 

 

Cold dread settled into the deepest part of his stomach as the feeling of silk fabric pressing against his cheeks slipped into his awareness. It didn’t take him long to figure out that his tie was being tied around his head to keep whatever makeshift gag that was in his mouth in place. The bite of the slender fabric against his cheeks traveled in a thin line to the base of his neck, where the man made quick work of tying it tight enough that Curt grunted, though the noise sounded gargled as it spilled out around the gag.

 

Tears stung his eyes as he did his best to focus. He needed to keep his head clear, to keep himself alert and attentive, even if a large part of him desperately wanted to let go, to give in, to let himself pass out and escape this.

 

Promise me you’ll stay.

 

He blinked. 

 

It was Owen’s voice in his head, but his words sounded more like the remnants of an echo, the ghost of a whisper snatched away by the wind. Still, it was his Owen. It grounded him. He took a breath through his nostrils, forcing air into his lungs as he focused on the two things he knew for certain. He knew that he’d made a promise, and he knew that he would do everything in his power to keep it. The breaths he managed to force himself to take around the gag were labored but steadying, as Curt felt his whole body relax a little, despite the situation. His panic began to ebb away, if only slightly.

 

Then, he heard it.

 

“What a surprise,” crooned that voice that had haunted Curt’s nightmares in recent weeks. “The boy seems to like being gagged.”

 

Luka.

 

Curt opened his eyes, blinking furiously through the tears that had slipped from his eyes without his permission. There, staring back at him, were those brown eyes, cold as stone and snakelike, making Curt’s skin crawl. He was leaning over Curt, his hands resting on each of Curt’s wrists, his arms boxing him in, making him feel more trapped than the rope binding him to the chair. Luka leaned in, his face barely a few inches from Curt’s. His breath on Curt’s face felt like fire, and it sent another wave of nausea wracking through his body.

 

Curt felt his whole body bristle, as he braced as best as he could for a fight, for a blow, for whatever terror Luka had planned for him. 

 

Promise me.

 

Curt steeled himself. He wouldn’t let Luka win, not this time. He had some fight left in him, yet.

 

Luka studied him, eyes flickering over his features. He seemed almost pleased with the change in Curt’s demeanor, as if the visible resolve that he’d settled into was in some way amusing to the man. Luka leaned forward so that he could whisper in Curt’s ear in a low enough voice that he would not be overheard by the other men (were there two? Three?).

 

“I think I prefer how you were back at my compound.” The feeling of his lips brushing against Curt’s ears caused him to jerk away. Luka’s hand snapped to his chin, and he forcibly turned Curt’s head back to the center and held him in place. Instinctively, he tried to grind his teeth together to bite back the panicked noise that threatened to escape his lips. The wad of whatever fabric was in his mouth prevented him from doing so, but the way pressing his jaw closed pushed the fabric further into his throat made him gag, effectively silencing the involuntary noise that had been welling up in his throat. Luka continued, “You were prettier, all bloodied and broken. Although the gag is a welcome addition.”

 

The icy tendrils of pure, unadulterated fear wrapped themselves around Curt. He didn’t like where this was going at all.

 

Luka moved back, straightening his back, and he turned his head to address the men behind him, who Curt realized were just standing back, enjoying the show. God, why did he always have to get captured by the fucking sadists .

 

“Since Mr. Ivanoski does not wish to cooperate, perhaps I might be allowed to loosen his tongue?” 

 

Curt’s eyes snapped open as wide as they could go. Luka was toying with him, and playing his captors for fools, as well. Luka knew who he was, knew his name to be Curt Mega, not Igor Ivanoski, though it seemed that he had not yet shared that fact with his … companions? Partners in crime? Co-criminals?

 

Shaking his head, Curt grunted, although the noise was muffled by the gag. He was overcome with a sudden fear of what was about to happen and how little of a chance he had of escaping it. 

 

Curt missed the response of one of the other men, the one who had been beating him only minutes before, who had shoved this terrible gag into his mouth, because he spoke low and quick, barely out of earshot. The crushing uncertainty only made him more terrified. He tried to remember his training, tried to think up one of Cynthia’s many rules that would give him an edge or at least keep him grounded. 

 

Hazily, as if it were pressing through a wall of foggy memories, he heard Cynthia’s voice.

 

Anything’s a weapon if you can swing it hard enough.

 

Ah, yes. Rule number forty one. It wasn’t perfect, but it gave him an idea. He pressed down the panic. He was Agent Curt fucking Mega. He could do this. 

 

His arms and torso had been bound to the chair, but they hadn’t secured his legs or feet. If Luka got close enough again, he could rock his weight towards the front of the chair as much as possible, hopefully sending him to a standing position, and, if he turned quick enough and swung hard enough, he’d be able to smash the chair that he was tied to into an unsuspecting Luka. Yes, that could work, if he could just—

 

That tentative plan of his fell apart before it even went into motion. Luka moved too quick to counter, and suddenly he was pressing Curt back, tipping the chair precariously onto its back two legs. Curt’s neck snapped back at the unexpected motion, and he knew he’d likely been given very mild whiplash. His feet left the ground, and he had no hope of shoving himself forward enough to gain enough momentum to stand. 

 

Luka gave the chair one more rough shove, and Curt’s head slammed into the ground as the chair fell sideways and he landed on the ground.

 

“We’ll break you, yet,” Luka said, “Mr. Ivanoski.

 

Promise.

Chapter Text

From the floor, Curt’s vantage point was far more limited. He had a decent view of the side of the room, but he could no longer rely on sight to inform him of an incoming threat. 

 

And there definitely was an incoming and imminent threat to his physical well-being.

 

Luka and his goons subjected Curt to three or four rounds of kicking and, by the end, Curt was left wheezing and gasping for air that couldn’t seem to force itself through injured ribs. Curt tasted something metallic in his mouth. He closed his eyes and swallowed it down, ignoring the coppery taste as he choked down his own blood.

 

Then, there was a clang, and the beatings stopped.

 

Curt shifted, groaning, trying to figure out what was going on. Unfortunately, between his new injuries, what was likely a concussion from the bomb blast, and his… well, position on the ground, it was difficult to figure out what exactly was going on.

 

Another clang echoed from the hallway, followed by a gunshot. Curt flinched, fearing the worst. He worried that the bullet was meant for Owen, worried that it found its home. Curt hated the idea of himself without Owen. It would be peanut butter without jelly, or maybe salt without pepper. He’d lose his other half if he lost his Owen.

 

“What’s that?” One of Luka’s men asked. 

 

Luka shook his head and then barked an order at him in Russian that Curt understood to mean that someone should open the door and check. Curt could almost picture the dumb looks on his captors faves as they attempted to figure out how to proceed. 

 

There was another clang, the sound of the door being slammed open, and then one shot. Luka dove out of the way Curt heard one of Luka’s cronies hit the ground. The next man was tackled, presumably, based on the way he fell right to the side of Curt that he couldn’t see.

 

Despite being unable to see the action. Curt had a good idea about who was behind it. Then, as the figure who rose from beside the man he’d just subdued with his bare hands, Curt smiled. 

 

It was Owen.

 

Luka glanced around the room, seeming to notice he was the only one left. His weapon, a handgun, was drawn and ready. Owen also had his gun drawn, and he pointed it at Luka. Owen’s gun clicked; it was out of bullets. 

 

Owen cursed, tossing the gun to the side. He still looked like a force to be reckoned with. 

 

“What do you pick, Mr. Carvour? Chasing me or saving him?” Luka said menacingly. Curt shivered.

 

Curt heard Owen snarl more than he saw it, and the way his shoulders tensed told him that he was shifting into a defensive position. Curt tried to protest, tried to tell Owen to just take down Luka, to leave him behind, but it came out as more of an incoherent groan around the gag. This only served to make Owen even more protective, and he held out his right arm to block even more of Curt from Luka’s view.

 

“Don’t flatter yourself, Luka,” Owen said, voice low and dangerous. “You were never even a choice.”

 

Luka hummed. From Curt’s position on the ground he could just make out the corner of his growing smile. It made him feel sick to his stomach. 

 

“Interesting.”

 

Then, Luka pointed the gun at Curt.

 

Curt’s eyes widened, and he tried to jerk his body away. The chair was too heavy and he ended up just shifting it over a half inch. Owen dove to the ground, shoulder hitting first and torso blocking most of Curt’s body. 

 

The sound of a shot going off echoed around the small room, and Curt tried to scream. He prayed to whatever god, goddess, or ancient being was listening that Owen was unscathed.

 

Curt saw Luka duck out from his field of view, and a door slammed. He assumed that Luka had escaped in the chaos. 

 

Owen stood, grunting. He raised a hand to his shoulder, where blood was seeping into the navy blue of his shirt. The shot must have gone over the top of Curt if it only skimmed Owen’s shoulder. That meant that Luka was either a terrible marksman, or—the more likely of the two considerations—he hadn’t been aiming for Curt at all. The gunshot was a cover to keep Owen distracted enough for Luka to escape.

 

At that moment, Curt really didn’t care. Owen was there. Owen had saved him. 

 

Turning, Owen refocused his attention on Curt, who was still on the ground. Owen very quickly gripped the edge of the chair and heaved it back up with a grunt. Curt felt a throbbing in his head where he had connected with the floor, and he groaned around the gag. Something in Owen’s eyes darkened, and he stepped back, a mix of emotions flashing across his face before he regained his composure. 

 

“Easy, Owen said. “I’m getting you out of here.”

 

Curt nearly cried in relief.

Chapter Text

Owen got to work freeing Curt.

 

First, he reached around him and tried to untie the knotted tie that was holding whatever makeshift gag was in Curt’s mouth. Owen was gentle, but the knot was very well done. He cursed under his breath as his frustration only served to make his fingers fumble more. 

 

Finally, after several moments spent in tense silence, Owen huffed.

 

“I’m gonna use my pocket knife to cut this away,” he said, voice low and urgent. There was something else, something that left his tone strained and tight, that Curt couldn’t quite piece together. Owen didn’t move to say more, and Curt really wasn’t in a position to press. Instead, Owen settled himself right up against the edge of the chair, in between Curt’s legs, and dug around in his pocket for his knife. 

 

He must have abandoned his jacket at some point because he was standing before Curt with just his button up shift on his top half, sleeves rolled up past his elbows. He was bleeding from where Luka’s stray bullet had knicked him in the shoulder, but he looked otherwise unharmed. Curt hoped that meant that he’d been far, far away when the bomb had gone off. 

 

Owen grunted, pulling Curt from his thoughts and his knife from his pocket. He flipped open the switchblade, and the cold grey of the metal blade caught the light.

 

“Hold still,” Owen said. Then, he took Curt’s face in one hand, and slipped the blade behind his head—up and under the tie. Curt didn’t flinch away, even as he heard the unsettling sound of silk being split by a dull blade. He trusted Owen, completely and utterly.

 

 It took a few moments of sawing, but the tie soon fell away. Owen grabbed the remaining sock that was in Curt’s mouth and, after a gentle tug, finally freed Curt from the uncomfortable gag. Owen made no comment about the amount of spit that also came out with the gag, nor about the spittle that ended up on Curt’s shirt, for which Curt was very thankful. It was demeaning enough to have been captured, but he knew that he was in an especially humiliating state. 

 

“Thank you,” Curt rasped out, relishing in his ability to breathe normally once again. 

 

“Stay still, I’ll undo these restraints,” Owen said, forgoing the typical response to a thank you. Curt did as he was told and, soon enough, the ropes fell away from his raw, red wrists. Curt rubbed at the angry marks that had been left behind, and he hissed at the heated pain that remained in the spots that had the more prominent rope burn. 

 

“It’s good to see you, O,” Curt said. Owen backed up a step then held out a hand to Curt. He helped heave him to his feet. After a moment of wobbling, Curt settled into solid footing and rolled his shoulders back. “I didn’t know if you got out of the blast.”

 

“What’s the damage?” Owen asked cooly, and Curt was momentarily taken aback. Owen was never this curt with Curt, especially after a rough rescue. 

 

“Bruised wrists, mild concussion, and what feels like a pretty deep gash on my eyebrow.” Curt knew it wasn’t worth fighting over now. Owen’s eyes traced over Curt’s body, landing on each section as Curt rattled off each injury. “You?”

 

“Fine,” Owen said, but Curt didn’t fail to notice the small twitch downward of Owen’s lips. Something was bothering him, but Curt couldn’t figure out if it was physical or emotional. 

 

“We have got to go. Police are on their way, most likely,” Owen said after a tense moment of silence. “Can you move?”

 

Curt took a tentative step and a wave of vertigo crashed over him, sending the room spinning. He took a deep breath, reaching out to grip Owen’s arm so as to steady himself. 

 

“I can, but running might not be the best thing in the world right now,” Curt informed. Owen, without any visible hesitation, pulled Curt’s arm around his shoulders and helped bear some of his weight.

 

“Alright, well,” he said, his voice softening. “We do this together then, Ducky.”

 

Curt balked at the term of endearment but didn’t falter. 

 

Together, with Owen burdened with most of Curt’s weight, they started to do a sort of half-jog, half-skip thing. Curt didn’t really bother defining how they were moving; it only mattered that they were moving. His shaky steps turned into a steady amble, and they raced up a flight of stairs and through several hallways. Curt was glad for Owen’s near photographic memory, as he had no idea where he was going. From what he’d seen of where they were, Luka had had Curt trapped in a cellar of sorts, likely originally for food or wine. 

 

Owen, who seemed to know exactly where they were going, continued to help shuffle Curt along. 

 

They made good time as they moved from the basement of the building to the back courtyard, where all the valets had parked the cars. It was a wonder that they didn’t run into trouble but, between the chaos of the bomb and the swelling of incoming sirens, Curt figured that most of the people had either evacuated or straight up left. 

 

“Get in that one,” Owen said, pointing to the nearest car with tinted windows. 

 

Curt didn’t need to be told twice. He unlatched himself from Owen and opened the passenger side door. Thankfully, the door had been left unlocked to ease the job of the valet, so he just slipped right in. His body ached as he bent over and sat down, and Curt flinched. He tried to hide his groan, but it came out as more of a hiss. 

 

Owen looked over at Curt, sending him a worried glance, but Curt just waved him off. 

 

After circling the car, Owen opened the driver’s door and got down on his knees to examine the car’s dash. He popped out the panel under the steering wheel and got to work tugging at wires. Owen was not as quick or as sure of himself as Curt was when it came to hot wiring a car, so he was hesitating quite a bit.

 

Curt let himself just stare for a moment. He was too out of it to be ashamed. Owen had rolled his sleeves up at some point before he’d rescued him. His hair was disheveled, and he was biting his lip in his concentration. He looked so crushingly beautiful. Curt shifted in his seat, trying to distance himself. He had been having more and more trouble stopping himself from doing something stupid, something that could ruin both of their careers.

 

Curt thought back to Owen’s showdown with Luka.

 

Owen had not even considered going after Luka. His only focus had been on Curt, and he’d said as much to their sadistic rival. 

 

 Curt could not figure out why Iwen, a top MI6 agent, would throw out the mission, the main directive, and his orders to save his partner, an agent from a foreign nation whom he wasn’t supposed to spare feelings for. They’d each been told more than once by their respective governments that they mustn’t get too close.

 

Don’t get personal, Mega, Cynthia always reminded him. Curt couldn’t bring himself to care about her rules at this point.

 

It seemed Owen didn’t care much for the rules either, anymore. He chose Curt—out of saving the day, stopping Luka, and helping Curt, who’d gotten his dumb ass captured, he chose Curt. Moreover, he told Luka that anything else wasn’t even an option. He dove in front of a bullet for Curt, sacrificed the mission for Curt.

 

If anyone from their respective governments had seen Owen making that choice, they’d likely think that Owen had been compromised, a turncoat working for A.S.S.

 

A tiny voice in the back of Curt’s mind told him another option. Maybe, just maybe, Owen cared for Curt in the same way that Curt cared for Owen.

 

The more he thought of it, the more he realized just how many times Owen had chosen him throughout their time together. 

 

He chose to take on the beating from Luka, chose to edge him on so as to distract him from Curt. He chose not to leave Curt behind at the compound when Curt had very nearly gotten stuck without a way out the window they were using to escape. He chose not to let the slimeball Yenen, who had shoved his tongue down Curt’s throat, have his way with Curt. Over and over again, Owen chose Curt over the mission. He chose Curt. 

 

It was almost as if there wasn’t really a choice.

 

A glint of silver caught Curt’s eye. He looked up at the driver’s side sun visor, which seemed to be holding something up. He grinned and, after seeing Owen’s confused but stubborn face as he continued to try and hotwire the car, he pulled the visor down. The car keys fell out, and Curt caught them before they could hit Owen in the head.

 

“Maybe these would help?” He offered, dangling them over Owen. 

 

Owen shook his head with a chuckle, and he replaced the panel under the dashboard that he’d removed.

 

“You couldn’t have said something earlier?” He asked, pushing himself up to standing. He slipped in beside Curt and snagged the keys from him. Curt shrugged, smiling.

 

“What fun would that have been?”

 

Owen smiled back, but it quickly became tight. Curt looked over his face as he turned to focus on driving. He was hiding stress about something. Curt could only guess what. He reached out tentatively to place his hand on Owen’s wrist. Owen shifted his grip on the clutch, effectively moving away from Curt’s touch.

 

Curt tried and failed to hide the hurt look that engulfed his face. He turned to stare straight ahead, his hands now firmly in his lap. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Owen’s jaw flex.

 

“Let’s get out of here,” Owen said quietly.

 

And so, in silence, they drove. 

Chapter Text

The whole way back into the motel they were staying at, Owen was growing more and more tense.

 

His expression soured and his shoulders were tight. Curt caught him scowling a few times, which was immediately hidden by a shake of his head. 

 

Curt did not, at first, mention it.

 

Owen was doing less and less of the work to get Curt up the back stairwell, as Curt was finally starting to regain his stance. By the time they reached their own room, on the third floor, Curt was able to dislodge himself from Owen. 

 

They unlocked their door and quickly got inside, Owen before Curt, and then they locked it behind themselves.

 

“We need to move,” Owen said briskly, stalking over to his side of the bed where he’d already meticulously stacked and sorted his files, clothes, and other supplies. “We’ve been at this motel for too long.”

 

Curt followed along behind him, chewing on his lip. On the one hand, he agreed that they very likely should leave, and that meant packing up was the logical thing to do next. On the other hand, he hated when Owen would quietly seethe without telling him what was wrong. It made for a shaky relationship both in and out of the field. 

 

“Are you good, O?” Curt finally settled on asking. 

 

Owen didn’t spare him a glance. 

 

“Fine,” he hissed. 

 

Okay , Curt thought, he is definitely not fine

 

“What’s gotten into you, Owen?” Curt asked firmly. He was trying to get Owen to look at him. He grabbed Owen’s uninjured shoulder, but Owen spun around to face him, effectively jerking his hand off of him.

 

“What’s gotten into m—what’s gotten into you?” Owen shouted, his voice rising with the tension in the room, “I told you to check in, but you had to go play hero!”

 

“Checking in? That’s what this is about?” Curt asked, almost laughing at the incredulity of it all. “I was preoccupied with the whole not getting blown up thing!” 

 

“Yeah, well, telling me that would have been great,” Owen said sharply, his voice dropping lower, becoming more dangerous. Curt took a step back. Owen, likely without even thinking, stepped closer. “Because imagine, for just a moment, how I felt not hearing anything for several minutes after I expressly told you to check in every two or three.”

 

“Owen,” Curt said, taking another step back. Owen continued to move forward, annunciating each syllable with an astounding amount of measured thought considering the rage he was in.

 

“Imagine how I felt after chasing the two idiots from the ballroom out into the front courtyard, too far away to do anything if something did go wrong.” Owen punctuated his words with another step forward.

 

“Owen.” Curt was beginning to feel trapped.

 

“Imagine how I felt when that fucking bomb went off, leaving me with no idea what happened or even if you were alive.”

 

“Owen,” Curt said, and his back hit the wall. Owen slammed his hands on either side of Curt’s head, caging him in between his arms. Curt couldn’t help the heat rising to his cheeks, nor could he help the way that Owen’s commanding tone was very obviously having an effect on him.

 

“Imagine, for one bloody second, how I felt when you didn’t answer my calls for you in the aftermath of the explosion,” Owen said, leaning forward so that he was nearly touching his forehead to Curt’s. Curt’s whole body felt like it was on fire and, despite the fact that Owen was acting intimidating, he couldn’t help the arousal that shot through his veins as Owen continued. “Imagine how I felt when I heard one man radio Luka about a hostage, how I felt when I had to fight through a half dozen armed men to get to you without even knowing if you were still alive.”

 

“Owen,” Curt tried again, uncertain where this was going. 

 

Owen leaned in, and his lips brushed against Curt’s ear as he continued. 

 

“Do you know how fucking gorgeous you looked, back in that cellar I found you in? Bound and gagged, completely at my mercy?” Owen asked, low and heated and so very, very, very close. Curt shivered despite the fact that the breath tickling his ear was warm, and he shut his eyes tightly. “Do you know how much I wanted to keep you there, all for myself?” 

 

“Owen.” This time, Curt’s voice was more of a gasp than anything else.

 

Owen hadn’t asked for this, Curt knew. He hadn’t asked to be all snapping teeth and snarling words. Unfortunately, his biggest battle was with himself, and he was not in the habit of taking prisoners. He would burn every adversary to the ground, himself with them, to keep himself warm in the cold that consumed him. 

 

Owen was still pinning him against the wall, but Curt didn’t feel at a loss for control over the situation. A part of him wanted to just grab Owen by the lapels and slam their lips together so hard and hungry that they bruised, but he stayed as still as he could.

 

“I am not afraid of you, Owen,” he said; his voice was small but the weight behind it was heavier than any one man should be able to carry. 

 

“You should be,” Owen spat back, his words barely raised above a whisper. 

 

Curt tried to say something more, but Owen suddenly gripped Curt by his shoulders and slammed him back into the wall. Curt kept his face neutral, and it only served to work Owen up even more. He held Curt there, trapped between him and the wall for a long moment as he breathed heavily. 

 

Curt knew this anger wasn’t really directed at him. He thought that he might finally— finally —understand. 

 

This was his Owen with the warm eyes and dark hair, with tan skin that felt warm against the cold of his hands. Owen with the strong arms and steady hands with years of gunpowder worn into the very fabric of his being. Owen with the heart so heavy it could shatter at any moment, with all the light spilling out past his rib cage like he’d swallowed a star. Owen with a smile like two way barbed wire, keeping people out but effectively trapping Curt in. 

 

Owen, Owen, Owen .

 

It had always been Owen.

 

“Please,” the question between them died on Owen’s lips. Curt knew Owen well enough to guess at what he was trying to ask.

 

Would you kiss these blood stained lips? Hold these filthy hands with fingers that have known death—caused death? Would he hold him, even as his hands touched his scarred and dirty skin?

 

“Please what?” Curt barely breathed. He was close enough to Owen that their breaths mingled. His mind was racing along the same lines of what he assumed Owen was experiencing.

 

Could he, the ocean, love me, a raindrop?

 

“Please don’t,” was all Owen said. He moved to release Curt, but Curt suddenly gripped Owen’s arms tightly and pulled him so close to him that their noses were touching and their eyes were forced to meet. Owen startled, his breathing going ragged. He rasped out, “Curt!”

 

Curt didn’t know if he could hold himself back, not this close to Owen. He wanted to kiss him, to devour him, but he was also still so overwhelmed and confused by his doubts that Owen would reject him.

 

“What do you need?” Curt asked, his voice low but powerful. He saw Owen work to suppress the shiver that ran down his spine. He shook his head, letting his forehead rest against Curt’s.

 

“You,” Owen finally said, his words little more than a growl.

 

Owen had wanted to be soft, Curt knew, but he was not. He’d grown up surrounded by clenched fists and war cries for lullabies, so he’d wiped the blood dripping from his teeth across his cheeks like war paint and joined the fight. He wasn’t a diamond in the rough; he was fire hardened and sharpened into a spear tip. His halo was an echo of gun fire, and he could no longer tell which way was up, which path was holy (he was both blood and beauty balanced on a knife blade). 

 

Curt could see that a part of Owen had longed to be soft words and soft lips, but deep beneath burned a hellish righteousness that most people bowed away from. He knew he should follow their example—stand clear of Owen’s atmosphere—but he was already caught in his gravity.

 

Owen wasn’t soft, but neither was Curt, anymore.

 

“Then take me.”

 

Owen didn’t need to be told twice.

 

He slammed his lips into Curt’s and kissed him. It was messy and unpracticed, but it was also hungry and hopeful. Owen kissed like a man who was afraid of letting go, as if Curt was the very air he breathed, as if he was suffocating without him. Their bodies moved together, and Curt let out a gasp as he was shoved backwards into the wall even more. He winced at the pain in his ribs, a pain he’d forgotten about up until that point. 

 

Owen pulled away, flinching at Curt’s wince. He opened his mouth to say something, but Curt would never know what.

 

Instead of listening, Curt just pushed off the wall and into Owen, relooking their lips. He was grabbing at his hips, and he felt Owen settle his hands around his shoulders. They fell into sync, their mouths moving against each other as perfectly as they moved with each other in the field on missions. 

 

After several moments, the both pulled away to breathe.

 

“I was so afraid,” Owen said softly, gently resting his forehead against Curt’s. “I thought I’d lost you.”

 

“Never,” Curt swore. “I promised I’d stay.”

 

Owen echoed in a whisper against Curt’s lips, “Promise.”

 

Owen sounded like he was reciting something holy, something ancient and old and everlasting. Curt worshiped him.

 

In his head, he reiterated.

 

I promise to stay.

 

I promise to choose you, always.

 

Chapter Text

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, as if yanked by an invisible chain, 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.

 

“Owen…”

 

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 on, 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.”

Chapter Text

He needed to go make amends. Owen was clearly very new to this whole acting-on-gay-urges thing, and Curt, while valid in his reaction to Owen’s hurtful words, understood better than most the sometimes overwhelming need to self-sabotage could be. People like him and Owen knew only that being alone protected them, kept them safe. Being alone meant staying alive. It was a culture shock to attempt to be alone with someone else, to let yourself depend on another person, to let yourself be vulnerable. 

 

Owen had so much passion hidden behind his cool façade. It was second only to the insurmountable grief he kept locked away in his heart. Curt knew from all of his time at Owen’s side that, despite their job and all that they were taught about being unbreakable, about being apathetic, that Owen, at his core, felt so very, very deeply. He had carefully curated his image as unfeeling and unmoved as he grew into being an agent. Owen wore his apathy like a second skin, an exoskeleton of sorts, like a shell to protect himself from the outside world. He lied to the world so often about his emotions that Curt wondered if he even really understood what was happening in his heart anymore. 

 

To be honest with Curt, to shed his protective second skin and kiss him openly, must have left Owen extremely vulnerable. Curt thought about it for a moment. To be without his mental walls would, reasonably, leave him feeling exposed. 

 

It was reasonable that he’d lashed out, Curt knew. Owen had been practically naked without his protective shell of apathy, bared to the world and sensitive. Curt had misstepped. He needed to fix the situation.

 

With nothing on his mind but Owen, Curt went back into the motel through the back door that connected to the alley. 

 

Thoughts of their fight quickly dissipated as Curt began climbing the steps leading to the upper floors. Something was off, something that immediately set him on edge. There was some sort of noise coming from the third floor—the floor their room was on—and Curt couldn’t yet decipher what it was. He moved quicker, taking the stairs two and three steps at a time. He tried to listen desperately. The unknown in their line of work could often prove fatal. As he neared his floor, the noise became more clear.

 

Voices. Curt could hear voices.

 

He half sprinted out from the stairs, bursting into the first hallway. At the end of the hallway, around a corner that led to another long corridor of rooms, was his room—and the source of the voices. As he rounded the corner of the hallway, his steps quick and quiet, he saw the cause of the noise. 

 

What first grabbed his attention was the group of five or six angry looking men. Then, after a split second, Curt saw Owen standing, his hands presumably handcuffed behind his back, in the middle of the group of men who were yelling at him in Russian.

 

Curt ducked back around the corner instinctively before he could be seen, pulling back to best assess the situation. He could still hear the men barking orders at Owen, who remained silent. The men had been dressed in tactical gear, but it wasn’t the signature look of Russian police. That meant that they were likely federal agents, which spelled very, very bad news.

 

Curt poked his head just barely around the corner, enough to spy on the situation a little more. 

 

Owen shook his head, if only slightly. Curt knew that signal. Somehow, Owen must have seen him, and he was warning him to stay put. Curt hadn’t even seen Owen glance over, but he must have because that was a clear signal to stay hidden. Curt shook his own head in return, grinding his teeth together tightly.

 

He pulled himself back behind the corner of the hallway to compose himself, forcing his breaths to even out and pushing his back up against the wall. He’d be damned if he didn’t at least try and help Owen, no matter how reckless an idea it seemed. Maybe in a different situation, with a different partner, he would be able to leave, to get the job done on his own regardless of the cost, but this was Owen. Despite their fight, it was still Owen . He had to act. Curt slowly reached for his hip holster and—

 

Shit. Curt hadn’t brought a gun with him to call Cynthia. 

 

It was sloppy, he knew, and he was paying for his incompetence now. That didn’t help his situation one bit. Curt began running other plans through his head, desperately trying to figure out how he could take on five armed and angry Russians with only his fist and his wits. 

 

“Tell us,” one of the men said, just within earshot. Curt tensed, tilting his chin up and evening out his breathing. “Tell us who hired you to set the bomb.”

 

Curt balked, silently shocked. The Russians thought that Owen had set the bomb? Why? And how had they found him, found their room, when it was secured through a second party without their names on the tab?

 

Those questions would have to wait, though, because Curt then heard Owen speak.

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said in Russian, and he was speaking in that half-German, half-Russian accent he had used at the gala. Curt realized he was trying to obscure his connections to his home country, which was smart. 

 

Owen would be dead if they realized he was British.

 

Russians definitely hated Americans, and they certainly despised American spies even more. Even still, they were expected to be a part of the current political culture, almost a formidable foe on the same level as you, someone to be both hated and respected. 

 

On the flip side, an Englishman was far less respected. A British spy, in fact, would be seen not as a rival peer, but rather as a sneaky rat bastard with no motive but to sow disorder and western ideals in the sacred motherland.

 

 Russian standing with America may be competitive, but Russian standing with the English was down right condescending. If Curt got caught, he would likely be traded back to his country in exchange for a Russian spy imprisoned in America. If Owen was revealed to be British, he would likely be tortured and killed so that the Russians could make an example out of him. 

 

Curt swallowed thickly, listening as the first man grumbled out a reply. 

 

“Don’t play dumb, foreigner,” the man spat, rolling the word off his tongue as if it was venomous. “Who sent you to plant the bomb?”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Owen repeated, harsher this time. A muffled nose followed by a small gasp of pain from Owen told Curt that Owen was likely being beaten. He shook his head, growling low in his throat. 

 

Unfortunately, the men went quiet right as he did so, and he was just loud enough to alert them to his presence. Curt took one last, quick glance at Owen from around the corner, and nearly cried out when he saw the blood trickling down from his nose, staining his beautiful lips a crimson red. Owen jerked his chin, signalling Curt to go. The men began yelling, and two of them lunged towards Curt. 

 

Luckily, Curt had better training. He tore his eyes away from Owen and swiftly dodged the two reaching for him. He doubled back down the hallway he’d crept up earlier, making a beeline for the stairs. Two of the five men gave chase, and Curt was suddenly taking the stairs down at a very fast pace. He was practically jumping from one landing at the top of the flight to the middle landing on the floor below, and he was turning corners like his life depended on it (it did). He was surprisingly agile, he knew, given his size and more heavyweight stance, and he was gaining ground on the Russians considerably. 

 

As he leapt down the last flight, he miscalculated and slammed into a wall, absorbing most of the impact on the left side of his body. He heard a small cracking sound and risked a glance at his communicator on his wrist. He’d jammed it into the wall with his body weight, he supposed, because it was shattered beyond use. 

 

Curt didn’t care, he just kept running. 

 

He ran out the back entrance. He ran out into the alley behind the hotel. He had limited options, and he could hear the Russians stomping down the stairs after him. In a split second decision, Curt threw himself behind several trash cans, hoping that he’d be obscured enough to remain hidden. 

 

The dust from his feet against the pavement had only just settled when the door slammed open again and the two Russian agents spilled out into the daylight. Curt held his breath as they swept the alley, searching quickly for any sign of where he’d gone. 

 

After a few moments, one of them barked out an order Russian.

 

“He's gone, let’s go rejoin the others.”

 

It sounded like a trap, a way to lure him out, but they genuinely did go back inside. Even still, Curt waited several agonizing seconds before he dared move. Curt waited for the cost to be completely clear before slipping out from behind the trash cans. Ignoring the way he now smelled like garbage, Curt quickly ducked into the phone booth he’d used a few days previously. 

 

Quickly, he dialed the number he had memorized for Barb’s lab. There was a clicking noise as he picked up. Curt hoped that meant that he’d been connect to Barb’s number.

 

“Hello?” He heard the relatively chipper voice of his favorite scientist dork ask. 

 

“Barb, patch me through to Cynthia,” Curt demanded, still speaking softly in case the Russians were listening through the door to the motel for him. 

 

“Why—?”

 

“Now!” Curt snapped, heart pounding. Curt heard the static on the line change, and he knew that Barb had done as he’d asked. She must have heard the urgency in his voice. Curt hoped she wasn’t too offended by the impatience in his tone. He’d snapped at her unintentionally, but he had shit to do.

 

“Who’s this?” He heard Cynthia ask, and Curt took a gulp of air.

 

“Owen’s been taken by some Russian operatives who believe he set the bomb at Luka’s gala,” Curt got out in a rush of hushed words. Cynthia was quiet for a moment.

 

“Are you compromised?” She asked, and Curt shook his head with a scoff.

 

“No,” he said, not voicing his second thought, which was that he obviously wouldn’t be calling if he was compromised and captured.

 

“What do I do?” Curt asked, desperately waiting for Cynthia to give him permission to hunt down Owen and get him to safety. 

 

“Luka is your first priority. Take him out before we worry about Owen,” Cynthia said finally, her voice low and tight. 

 

Curt spluttered angrily.

 

“What? But this is Owen we’re—”

 

“I know god damn well who he is, and I grieve his capture as much as you,” Cynthia said sharply, cutting him off, “but Luka is your mission. You have to complete your main mission before you go after him, am I understood. 

 

Curt knew arguing would get him nowhere. Instead, he balked his fist at his side and responded.

 

“Yes. Understood.”

 

Cynthia tutted, then hung up on him, but not before transferring him back to Barb. Curt ground down his teeth as he snapped his jaw closed with an audible click.

 

“What are you going to do?” Barb asked as if she knew the whole story. “Are you going to go get Owen.

 

“Owen Carvour is more of a problem than he’s worth, anyway.” Curt tried to force sincerity into his voice as he shrugged. He tried to make it sound as if he was going to be the perfect little agent who did exactly as he was told. Cynthia had ordered him to take Luka down at all costs, to leave Owen behind until his first mission was completed. He had to let them think he’d play the part for now, if just so that he could get the resources he needed to bust Owen out of whatever hellhole the federal agents locked him up in.

 

“So you plan to let him rot?” Barb asked incredulously, sounding almost pained. Curt didn’t understand. She’d never even met Owen, why would she care?

 

 “He’s not my mission,” he said through gritted teeth. It sounded hollow, even to his own ears.

 

Barb was silent on the other end. For a split second, Curt panicked , fearing the call had dropped and he wouldn’t be able to get what he needed to rescue Owen. Finally, he heard a soft sigh.

 

“Curt, I thought spies had to be good liars.”

 

 “Oh, fuck off, of course I’m not going to let him rot. I don’t care about any mission Cynthia is sending me on, all that matters is that I get him back safely!”

 

“Okay. Let me figure out where they took him. We’ll get him back, Curt,” Barb said confidently, her voice more of a whisper. Curt wondered if she was trying to avoid being heard by others in the lab.

 

“What...really?” He asked dumbly, his jaw going slack with shock. 

 

“He’s important to you right?”

 

Curt nodded, before remembering Barb couldn’t see him.

 

“Yes,” the word tumbled out of his mouth as if he couldn’t get it out fast enough. 

 

“Then this is important to me, too,” Barb said softly. Curt nearly cried. For as much as Barb annoyed him, got in his space, and constantly tried to make advances on him, she was dependable and kind. Curt considered himself lucky to have her. 

 

“Thank you,” he barely breathed.

 

“I’ll be in touch. Stay safe, Curt,” she said, and he nodded again.

 

“I’ll check in later.”

 

Right before he slammed the pay phone back into its slot on the machine, he heard another click. He eyed the phone, suddenly more suspicious. Then, he shrugged, turning on his heel and jumping out of the phone box. He was knee deep in one mystery, the mystery of where the hell Owen had ended up, he didn’t need to worry about old phones making weird noises. 

 

Owen was the most important thing right now.

Chapter Text

It took Barb approximately two hours to locate Owen. 

 

Unfortunately, she had discovered that he’d been transported to the Kremlin, in the heart of the Red Square in Moscow. They were taking Owen to one of the most fortified military bases in all of Russia. 

 

Curt was on the move the moment he had solid intel in Owen’s exact position. He didn’t have time to waste. The Russian operatives had taken everything. He had no weapon, no equipment, no backup. All he had was the handful of cash he’d had on him and his broken watch communicator that was still on his wrist before the raid. It didn’t matter. He would take on the whole Russian secret service empty handed, fists swinging, if he had to; he didn’t care. He didn’t care about the hell Cynthia would raise. He didn’t care if this ended up causing an international incident. 

 

For Curt, it had never been about what was right and what was wrong. It had only ever been about Owen.

 

He kept telling himself that Owen would be alright. He repeated it over and over again like a mantra—Owen will be fine, he’ll be fine, Owen’ll be alright—until the words were pounding against his brain to the same beat as the blood thundering through his veins, keeping time with his pulse as he force fed himself hollow promises and words that felt empty and fell flat even to his ears.

 

Still, he kept it up. Owen would be alright. He was a survivor. He would be fine. Curt needed him to be fine.

 

Curt knew who Owen was, at his core, and that meant he had every reason to believe that Owen would fight hard and long before giving in. Owen was a powerful man, a skilled agent and a cunning strategist, who spent his days putting out fires and his nights running into them.

 

Owen reminded Curt very much of a supernova. In fact, if a dying star could smile it would resemble him very much, indeed—he gave the impression of something beautiful but destructive.

 

His warm eyes offered Curt stories he wanted to weep over. 

 

A part of him felt that he would be content to forever feel the high of simply being in his orbit before his collapse (—all dying stars must collapse, after all, so they may become a supernova, so she would crumble and annihilate before her rebirth).

 

Curt hotwired the car nearest him in the back alley he’d been waiting for Barb’s call in. She had called the pay phone back with Owen’s location, and then she had given Curt nothing else but a swear of secrecy and a wish for good luck. Curt tried not to sound tense when he thanked her. She was giving up so much for him already, he didn’t want to sound ungrateful.

 

Curt pulled out into the road in the beat up old sedan he’d chosen, feeling empty and absent, apathetic to the moment at hand and entirely oblivious to it at the same time. His mind returned to focusing on Owen far more than it did on the road, and Curt very nearly drove himself off the freeway several times over.

 

All he could think about was Owen. All he could think about was how much he loved him.

 

God, he loved Owen—in the way one chose their own death over another’s absence, he loved him. Owen’s heart was filled with gasoline, and his mouth sang a song of matchsticks, lips dripping sparks like he was waiting for himself to catch fire. In the way one chose their own pain over another’s suffering—he loved Owen. It felt like loving gun fire.

 

(His world was off axis without him.)

 

The hour it took to drive to Moscow felt like days and felt like mere seconds. Curt was moving in slow motion but the world was sped up. Everything felt wrong, and his heart was so plagued by worry that he didn’t even begin to comprehend the danger he was putting himself in—or perhaps he no longer cared. He drove as close to the Red Square as he could, ignoring the ache in his chest as best as he could.

 

He was going to get Owen back. Owen was going to be alright.

 

Curt put the car in park and stilled himself in his seat. He ran his hands along the work leather of the steering wheel, picking at upturned edges of it as he went. His eyes traced over the hustle and bustle around him of officers, federal and municipal alike, milling about, mixing with businessmen and politicians. Curt sank back into his seat. As straightforward as this seemed, he was beginning to realize that he would need to play it safe if Owen had any chance of survival whatsoever. Curt sighed, pushing open his door and stepping out onto the sidewalk. He slammed the door shut behind him, using the action to force out any stray anxiety, calming himself via his uniquely improvised percussive therapy. Who needed a government issued psychiatrist when you could just shove stuff really hard? 

 

As Curt turned towards the Kremlin, he caught sight of St. Basil’s cathedral. He’d seen pictures of it, of course, but it was larger than he expected and… duller. The colors were completely washed out. Perhaps that was because Owen had always brought the vibrancy into Curt’s world. Without him, everything seemed a tad closer to grey, a bit dimmer than before. Owen allowed Curt to feel and to see the world far more deeply that Curt ever had on his own. He desperately missed that.

 

Curt began surveying the square as he followed crowds of businessmen and politicians alike around the square's outer edge. He counted his steps as he circumambulated the building, keeping tight enough to others that it would seem to any onlooker that he was one of them, whilst not getting too close to the groups that it would feel to them that a stranger was encroaching upon their step. Curt counted windows, counted doors. He made educated guesses about the layout of the building, and he watched carefully where workers entered and exited the building. He observed how they got in (via some sort of identity check at the receptionist desks just inside each entrance) and  when guards rotated their shifts.

 

He had wanted to rush in, but he held himself stead and held himself back. Owen would never just run in, all headstrong and enthusiastic but without a plan and without a reason. Owen would bide his time, wait things out until he had a proper plan. Curt knew Owen’s methods would be best suited for this job, but that didn’t make coming up with a plan any easy. 

 

How the hell was he going to be able to break into one of the most secure buildings in Russia?

 

Watching as the guards rotated once more, Curt had an idea. It was a terrible, unrealistic, and highly dangerous idea, but he didn’t really care much about any of the risks inherent to himself. All he cared about was getting Owen out alive, no matter what that meant for Curt.

 

He was going to get Owen back.

 

Owen was going to be fine.

 

Owen…

 

Owen had to be fine.

Chapter Text

Curt would be the first to admit that, in his entire career as a spy, he had come up with some absolutely terrible plans.

 

Some plans, much like the first one he and Owen had ever worked on together, during a joint MI6 and A.S.S operation in Berlin, he didn’t realize how stupid, unrealistic, dangerous, or bat shit insane his plan was until someone else pointed it out to him. He often didn’t stop to consider how much time he needed to allow himself, how much muscle he needed to be bringing, where to enter a building to remain unseen, or other boring logistical points when devising a play. His plan of action was simply that:  action. He ran headfirst into danger; that was his way. Curt, a simple man, saw people that needed help or people that needed to be stopped, and he acted.

 

Until Owen became a fixture of his life and a common partner out in the field, Curt rarely considered his own safety when it came to a plan. Why would he?

 

What was the loss of one life in comparison to the countless lives he could save?

 

Owen, the deeper thinker of the two of them, preferred to be a scalpel instead of a blunt object. Owen considered; Owen analyzed; Owen contemplated. He never put his own life above the mission, but he lived by the belief that he would best complete his objective (and future objectives) if he kept himself alive to see it through. In the field, Owen always gripped Curt to slow down and breathe, to just bloody think, Mega .

 

Yes, Curt came up with terrible plans that relied on brute strength and pure, dumb luck. Yes, he had Owen’s voice in his head telling him to observe and formulate a workable plan of action.

 

Curt had come up with some frankly terrible plans in the past. His current plan trumped them all.

 

His current plan was a special type of stupid, a rare type of reckless, an absolute travesty of an idea. If it worked, he could almost guarantee that Owen would murder him just for coming up with it. 

 

This plan was, put simply, shit.

 

Curt snuck his way around the square’s section of the wall with a roof, trying to avoid the openness of the courtyard that it surrounded. He tried to keep quiet to avoid calling attention to himself. Barring a few coughs that he could muffle in the crook of his elbow, he succeeded. He crept along one of the covered walls, hiding behind pillars when a round of guards came too close. 

 

In the corner of the open square, two guards stood, relaxed. They conversed openly, their rifles slung over their shoulders. Curt guessed that they had retired from guard detail and were heading home for the day. 

 

Sneaking closer, Curt clung to the shadows of the building, hiding himself from view. The two guardsmen spoke animatedly with one another, but the conversation seemed at its natural end. Curt cursed quietly. He needed to act quickly.

 

One of the two guards peeled off with an amicable farewell and a hearty wave to his compatriot, whilst the second guard returned his goodbye and turned in his heel to walk along the inner wall towards Curt.

 

Pressing his back against the pillar he had hid himself behind, Curt took a deep breath in. The guard rounded close enough to Curt to see him. He opened his mouth, presumably to ask what he was doing snooping around, and Curt leapt forward. 

 

Slamming the guard into the wall with a hand on his head and a hand bunched in his jacket, Curt knocked the guard out in a single, well-practiced move. Moving hurriedly to avoid being seen by the next round of guards, Curt dragged the unconscious guard into a nearby janitorial storeroom. 

 

Curt wasted no time. He stripped the guard to his undergarments, carefully memorizing how the uniform was meant to be worn. Curt stifled a cough, trying to keep quiet even as it tode through his body. He relieved the guard of his weapon. Then, Curt removed his street clothes and slipped into the uniform. The guard had probably fifty or so pounds on him, and the uniform hung loosely over his frame. It wasn’t the most noticeable issue, but it did mean that Curt would have to factor in the extra fabric if he got into a scuffle and needed to act fast. 

 

As he put on the man’s hat and slung his rifle over his shoulder, Curt gave a small, apologetic sigh in the general direction of the guard. The man would wake up with a gash above his ear, a pounding headache, and a mountain of paperwork to sort through after Curt stole his identity, no doubt. Rubbing the back of his neck, Curt tried not to feel too bad about it. 

 

Owen needed him, and that was leagues more important. 

 

Momentarily caught up on the thought of Owen, Curt jolted back into focus when his chest tightened. 

 

Curt, bringing a hand up to his mouth reflexively, coughed violently again. He winced as the cough raked through his body and ripped up his throat, but his wince quickly turned into a disgusted grimace as he felt something warm and wet splatter into his hand. Sighing, he moved to wipe the phlegm he’d no doubt coughed up on the unconscious guard’s shirt. 

 

Curt froze. 

 

Droplets of red spotted his hand like perverse, scarlet freckles on his light skin. Curt brought his hand closer to his eyes so that he could better examine the substance. He had a sinking suspicion that he knew what it was already, but the consistency and coppery stench sealed the deal. 

 

Curt cleared his throat, then he leaned down to wipe the blood on the guard’s shirt. He had no qualms about leaving his blood behind at the scene of a crime. After all, this wasn’t a science fiction novel; it wasn’t as if someone on a forensics team could identify him by his DNA alone. With the blood wiped from his hand, Curt straightened and rolled his shoulders back.

 

He could worry about what coughing up blood meant later. It wasn’t as if he had never thrown up or coughed up blood before. In fact, during a significant portion of his early childhood, he would cough up blood every time his uncle came over. Curt bristled unconsciously at the memory. His uncle had called what he was doing to Curt ‘wrestling’. When his mom had found out about it, she’d called it ‘abuse’. Curt only ever called it painful, and he’d had a seemingly permanent bruise on his ribs for much of elementary school that was often accompanied by wet coughs that brought up frothy, red blood each time he heaved. 

 

Curt Mega was no stranger to pain, nor one to blood. He knew how to ignore it. And, for Owen’s sake, he knew he needed to ignore it.

 

Giving the soldier on the ground one more apologetic glance, Curt slipped out of the store room. He steadied himself and drew a blank expression across his features. 

It was time to sneak into the heart of the Kremlin, the most fortified building in all of Russia. It was time to face the music.

It was time for a bad plan.

Chapter Text

Navigating the Kremlin proved easier than expected. 

 

Curt slipped past the guard rotation, careful to keep the hat on his head tipped low enough to hide his eyes. He strutted across the courtyard, imitating the gait he’d seen other guards use as they walked. Their movements were clunky, almost as if they were trying to snap them about stiffly like a robot, but it seemed that every soldier was trained to move this way, at least ceremoniously. He gave a short nod to the round of patrol guards that he passed and was pleased when the only response he got in return was not suspicion or surprise but rather a curt nod back.

 

At the northernmost wall of the courtyard, a set of stairs led down into the lower levels of the Kremlin, in which business was conducted and, more importantly, prisoners were held. Curt needed to gain access to the lower levels in order to find the prison containment area, but he doubted that he’d be able to wander in without facing a security check at some point. 

 

His suspicions proved, worryingly, correct. 

 

At the base of the stairs he sauntered down, a young woman sat at a desk that served as a checkpoint for incoming and exiting soldiers to sign in and out. Curt, having memorized the name on the ID that he now wore attached to his lapel, spoke his name to the lady with confidence when asked. He silently thanked his mother for forcing him to learn Russian phonetically as a teenager, which meant that his accent was nearly impeccable. 

 

The man that Curt had stolen this uniform and ID badge from resembled him enough to pass, Curt thought (and hoped). The woman seated at the table regarded Curt warily, but the severe lines in her weathered face led Curt to think that she always looked a bit out of sorts. 

 

Finally, after several seconds spent in silece whilst Curt waited to be found out and called out, the woman nodded, jerking her head towards the back room. She didn’t offer any pleasantries, any form of goodbye, or other words that needed to be exchanged, so Curt followed suit and kept his jaw clamped firmly shut as he walked away. When he rounded the corner of the first long hallway, his shoulders sagged and he let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

 

That had worked far better than Curt had expected.

 

Next step, find the cell block. 

 

Miraculously, Curt managed to stumble upon a directory as he blindly turned down another hallway. He was yet to pass another guard or militant, and he crossed his fingers and prayed to whatever deity was listening that his luck would hold long enough to find his partner, his Owen. 

 

Despite where they left things, Curt still fiercely believed that Owen was his, damnit—his partner, his friend, his Owen— no matter the capacity, and he was fiercely protective of his own. 

 

According to the directory, the cell block was a floor below but the interrogations were conducted a hallway over from his current position. Curt needed to figure out where Owen was most likely being held. He took a gamble, turning down another endless hallway to find the interrogation rooms. 

 

As he passed, the white walls became intermixed with large windows that allowed him to see into the rooms that branched off the hallway. Curt assumed the glass was single sided, so that guards could see in but prisoners could not see out. Each room had a table in the center and a chair on either side. Most rooms were empty, but he passed a few with terrified people seated cuffed to the table in their room. 

 

He saw no sign of Owen… yet.

 

As he continued, two soldiers rounded the corner of the end of the hallway, laughing jovially as they spoke with animated expressions. They leaned against the final window of the hallway, seemingly speaking about whatever prison was being held within that room. As Curt neared the two, he tipped his hat down, trying to conceal his face as best as possible.

 

“Morning,” Curt greeted. The two men nodded at him. 

 

“Morning,” said the first, his arms crossed over his chest but his posture relaxed. “You come to see the show?”

 

Curt glanced into the room past the one-way glass. There, seated at the table, was Owen. 

 

“Depends, is it any good?” Curt replied, trying to walk the line between professional and familiar until the ranking of these soldiers could be better identified. His heart hammered so loudly in his chest that he worried the sound of would give him away.

 

“You’ll have to wait and see,” said the second guard. He pointed into the room, finger nearly tapping on the glass. “This ones about ready to crack but his interrogation doesn’t continue until later this afternoon.”

 

Curt nodded, shrugging. Then, his eyes saw a small key attached to the second guard’s hip. It was on a small carabiner, and it looked about the right size to be a key to the handcuffs each prison wore. He was going to need that. He guessed that he would be able to use his charisma in this situation. 

 

“I’ll miss it then. I’ve got patrol in the courtyard later.”

 

“Oh, mate,” said the first, wincing sympathetically. He sounded almost boyish. “That's a right boring shift.”

 

“Pointless is what it is,” said the second, his voice more gruff and mature. “They don’t need a whole patrol up top when we got security down here. Besides who’s stupid enough to break into the most fortified building in the USSR?”

 

“You’re right,” Curt said, feigning the annoyance that the other two seemed to feel. “Seems to me like there’s no point guarding an uncrackable safe!”

 

The men gave a short bark of laughter each at then, then the second man knocked his shoulder into Curt’s. As he did so, Curt gave a gentle tug to the key on the soldier's hip, lightly pickpocketing it and then hiding it in his sleeve.

 

“Stay strong, comrade. It’s just a few hours.”

 

Then, the men gave a brief goodbye and wandered off together, still talking loudly as they disappeared down the long hallway. 

 

Looking back at Owen, Curt studied him. Owen, lips bloodied and eyes narrowed, sat at a table and leaned back in his chair, legs sprawled out beneath the table. His hands, which were cuffed to a rod in the center of the table, rested on the table before him. He teetered between calm and irritated, an expression he wore well despite the callous way it twisted his features. He worried his bottom lip, drawing it between his teeth as he stared into the space where the wall met the ceiling. 

 

Curt knew that look. 

 

Owen wasn’t close to cracking, as the guards had assumed. No, he only coiled so tightly in on himself when he prepared to strike, like a snake bracing before it lashed out. Owen didn’t plan to break. He planned to fight back. 

 

He was just waiting for the right time to make his move.

 

Turning to make certain that the guards who’d laughed with him a moment previous were well and truly gone from the hallway, Curt straightened his back. He held his breath as he turned the handle on the door, trying to keep the door from creaking or making too much noise as he slipped into the room. 

 

As he turned around, Curt tipped his hat back, revealing his face to his shackled partner. For a moment, Owen just stared at him, his eyes all big and his eyebrows raised in surprise. Then, his jaw clicked shut and flexed, and his eyes narrowed once again.

 

Curt panicked. Was he still mad? Did he hate him for what he’d done, how much he’d messed up?

 

Silently, Curt waited for Owen to pass judgement, to berate him, to do… something, anything . He shifted his weight from foot to foot, ignoring the way his heart sank to the bottom of his stomach. Owen shook his head, sighing.

 

“What? They sending in rookies now?” He teased, finally breaking the tension.

 

“Excuse you, who of the two of us actually has the experience working in enhanced interrogations!” Curt shot back, a smile slipping across his face. This banter felt right; this banter felt real. 

 

Owen scoffed at him.

 

Me .”

 

Curt conceded the point, entirely aware that his foray in the United States armed forces for a year or so before his transfer to the espionage industry and A.S.S did not make him anywhere near as qualified to handle intensive interrogations as Owen’s MI6 training made him. The Brits had a special talent for getting prisoners to talk, despite a frankly brutal and archaic way to get their results.

 

“Yeah, well, I just wanted to play dress up,” Curt bent over Owen, using the key he’d swiped off of one of the guards earlier to unlock the handcuffs keeping him shackled to the table. 

 

Owen’s face softened.

 

“What are you doing here, Curt?”

 

Curt shrugged, forcing his grin to hold steady despite the pain that surged in his chest. Owen sounded… dejected, as if he’d expected Curt to leave him behind.

 

“Breaking the law.”

 

Owen snorted, the tension easing from his face and shoulders a bit. He rolled his eyes, rubbing his wrist as the cuffs clicked and fell away. He stood, a small smile breaking across his face as well.

 

“Oh, there’s a shock,” he said sarcastically. “What’s your plan?”

 

Curt sheepishly shrugged, his smile taking on an apologetic quality. 

 

“This was actually as far as I’d gotten,” he said, bracing for Owen’s disappointment. Luckily, Owen took his words in stride, seemingly unfazed by Curt’s lack of preparation. Curt supposed that was what happened when you’d been working with the same person as closely as they had been for a few years, now. Curt passed Owen the extra side arm he’d swiped from a guard earlier, keeping the military issue rifle for himself.

 

Immediately, Owen switched into battle mode. His eyes narrowed once again, his hand moved to rub his chin thoughtfully, and his stance shifted so that more weight was pushed into the balls of his feet. Curt watched the change with interest, noting that Owen still favored the knee that hadn’t been injured by a crowbar a week and a half previously. His lip, whilst less noticeable still existed, and his many wounds garnered at Luka’s compound would be far from healed. 

 

“Okay, then we need to be ready for anything. You’ve got a better idea of—”

 

“O,” Curt cut him off. “Damage report?”

 

Owen stumbled over his words, his thoughts skidding to a stop the same way a bus stopped when it collided with a car—falteringly, with little grace and a lot of confusion as it halted unexpectedly. He glanced down at Curt, his shoulders going stiff.

 

“What?”

 

Curt sent him a pointed look. 

 

“What do you mean what?” He asked. Then, more deliberately, “what’s the damage?”

 

“Curt, I really don’t think…” His words died on his lips as Curt’s stare hardened. Softly, Owen sighed. “The didn’t really raise a hand to me past the initial fight when they took me in. I’ve got a bruise on my side and a busted lip, but I’m good.”

 

Curt nodded, prying the door open. He let Owen walk first, allowing him to take the lead.

 

“Your knee?” He checked as they began back tracking their way through the halls, carefully listening to avoid any patrol of guards.

 

“I’ve had better days, but I’ll live.” 

 

“You’d better,” Curt grumbled as they ducked down another hallway, making a beeline for the stairs leading up to the courtyard. “I didn’t come all this way to watch you—to watch you—”

 

He stopped talking, momentarily pausing to cough. He hid his mouth in his elbow, ignoring the flecks of red that stained the sleeve but quickly hiding it from Owen’s view. 

 

“You alright, old sport?”

 

“Peachy,” Curt mumbled. Then with more power to his voice, he said, “Got a plan to get past the security check at the base of the stairs?”

 

Owen tossed him a cheeky half smile, his whole body lit up and alive with energy. His brown eyes warmed Curt more completely than a fresh cup of coffee on a cold morning. Curt felt as if he was coming home.

 

“Of course I do. Let’s get out of here, ducky.” 

Chapter Text

Owen’s plan basically boiled down to run like the wind

 

They fled the compound quicker than a heathen fled from church, racing side by side. Curt could have probably outran Owen, since his partner was limping, but Curt wasn’t in the business of leaving anyone behind, most especially not Owen. He kept pace with him, rifle raised and pointed out in front of himself to prepare for the inevitable patrol that they would stumble upon. Their plan depended on surprise and, if his conversation with the two guards just a few minutes ago was any proof, nobody would expect anybody to be breaking out of the Kremlin.

 

Two bars out of hell, they skidded around the corner of the last hallway. They came upon the front desk checkpoint in a handful of seconds. The woman behind the desk was, at first, too stunned to move. Then, her wits caught up to her, and she moved to grab something from beneath the desktop. Curt fired off a warning shot beside her, and she dropped to the floor to duck out of the line of fire.

 

“Not your most graceful of plans, O,” Curt complained, staying a step behind as they stomped up the stairs to the courtyard. Owen kept his gun trained in front of him, Curt kept his eye on their backs. Their movements were well-trained and natural, as instinctive and innate as breathing. 

 

“You got a better one?” Owen snapped back, but he smiled. His teeth were bared in that grin, and he looked hungry and angry and vicious. His messy hair and bloodied face lended itself to his slightly feral appearance, giving him the look of something dark, something dangerous. The visceral feeling of following that man into certain danger made Curt’s heart sing.

 

Holy hell, Curt fucking loved him.

 

They burst into the courtyard. For a moment, it was painfully still. The only sound and movement originated from their scampering as they made a beeline for one of the several exits that led out to the street. It was almost peaceful.

 

Then, guards snapped to attention and opened fire. 

 

Bullets ripped past as they darted in zigzags. There was shouting; there was movement; there was a hell of a lot that Curt wasn’t focused on. He and Owen needed to get to where Curt had parked his stolen (borrowed?) car. Their only chance of escape was in a vehicle, not on foot, and they didn’t have the time to hot wire anything.

 

Briefly, Curt locked eyes with one of the guards, the more boyish and innocent of two that he’d met earlier, whose confusion was palpable as he raised his weapon towards the pair. His eyes were uncertain, but his training was impeccable. Curt followed the aim of the gun. He made a split second calculation.

 

As the guard fired, Curt slammed his body into Owen’s to muscle him out of the way. Owen stumbled, and Curt took his place in their trajectory. A sharp ache erupted in his stomach as the bullet shattered the air around them and clipped his side. Curt gasped but guessed the damage was minimal because he was still moving.

 

“Hang a left!” He shouted breathlessly, directing Owen towards his car. The guards, hot on their tail but too far to catch them as they burst out onto the street, continued shouting and shooting. 

 

Not bothering to switch sides, Owen and Curt wrenched open their doors and leapt into the car. Owen was in the driver's seat, and he slammed on the gas before Curt had the chance to close his door. A single shot ricocheted off their tailgate, but then it was blessedly silent. 

 

“We did it!” Owen shouted, keeping his foot pressed flush against the pedal and to the floor. The

 

“Yeah,” Curt muttered, his hand meeting his side as he tried to pressure away the pain. As his hand pressed down, it slipped on something. He drew it back, only to see his fingers slicked with crimson blood. 

 

That… wasn’t good. He bit down on his lip and pulled his jacket tighter around the wound, hiding it from view and keeping pressure on the blood spilling out from his side. What he’d thought to be a superficial flesh wound was actually a clean shot, through and through, in his side. 

 

He kept himself silent save for his sharp, shallow breaths that were lost behind the sound of Owen’s equally harsh breathing.

 

Several minutes passed in an adrenaline fueled silence as each man came off the high of shock. They had turned down a labrunth of roads until the settled upon a back road that was surrounded by forest. It didn’t seem that anyone was following them. Slowly, Owen relaxed his grip on the steering wheel and tore his eyes from the road.

 

“Damage report?” Owen asked, his eyes locked on the road before him. Briefly, Curt wondered if he should just keep this injury from Owen too. Then, he heard Owen say, more deliberately, “Curt?”

 

Curt sighed.

 

“Definitely… damaged.”

 

Owen snapped to look at him. Curt could pinpoint the exact moment Owen saw the blood because the whole car swerved in time to Owen’s jaw dropping.

 

“Shit, okay, press down on that,” Owen steadied the car and his voice, but his eyes lingered on Curt more than they did the road. Curt did as he was told, pressing his hands intj his side. It hurt. He was in agony. He was numb. He had no idea what he was.

 

“Yeah,” Curt said, but his voice and hand slipped.

 

“Curt, keep pressure on that!” Owen admonished, but his panic was slowly becoming more apparent. He reached over to press his hand over Curt’s to maintain the steady pressure on his side in a pointless attempt to stop the bleeding. 

 

“I… Owen,” Curt choked out. Owen’s grip switched to hold his wrist. Curt loved it when he did that.

 

Curt dropped his hand away from his side, feeling woozy. His vision darkened around the edges, and his breathing grew shallow. He heard his rasping, halting breaths as if they were not his own, as if they were separate from him. He felt as if he was on the outside looking in on his collapse—and he did collapse.

 

Eyes slipping closed, he slumped in his seat, losing focus on the world for a terrible handful of seconds.

 

“Curt?” Owen sounded panicked. Why was he so panicked? Curt couldn’t remember. He didn’t—couldn't—respond. “Curt!”

 

He heard the car jerk off the road more than he felt it. He registered the fact that the car had turned so fast that his head slammed into the window, but he didn’t feel the pain of the impact. The car halted, his door open, he fell into someone’s waiting arms. 

 

“Curt!” Owen was shouting. He was being too loud. Curt needed to rest. “Come on Curt, don’t do this to me.”

 

Curt’s back hit the ground, and his eyes snapped open, only partially taking in what was around him. Owen hovered above him, kneeling with his bad leg out straight beside him, looking as if he’d just crawled out of his own grave, which was ironic because Curt was the one dying.

 

Was he dying? He didn’t know. 

 

Owen ripped his jacket off his body and balled it up to press down on Curt’s wound.

 

“Curtis Mega, you are not allowed to die on me.” Owen smacked his collar bone a couple times. Curt couldn’t bring himself to flinch. A heartbreaking sob wrenched it’s way out from Owen’s throat before his face hardened. 

 

He got to work.

 

Curt had imagined Owen’s lips against his more times than he cared to admit. Late at night, he often stayed up fantasizing about what it would be like to have Owen pressed against him, his mouth against his as they moved in tandem with one another, as in sync in their love as they were in the field. His imagination, up until roughly half a day ago, had remained just that—imagination. Then, Owen had slammed him into a wall and slammed his lips into Curt’s, and he had blown all of Curt’s expectations clear out of the water. He was left wanting more, so much more, after their first hungry kiss, even despite that interaction being poisoned by uncertainty and fear. 

 

He had never, in all of those late night musings of what he thought could never be, imagined them kissing like this. 

 

No, not ever did he imagine them on the side of a Russian back road, with Curt, the dust from the highway coating his face and mouth as he choked on his own death, sprawled out on the ground and Owen braced over the top of him, blocking the sun in such a way that he appeared to have a soft halo around his head. He never imagined Owen slamming the palm of his stacked hands down onto his chest over and over again until they could both hear the crack of Curt’s rib cage giving in as his heart gave out. He had never imagined Owen shaking, tasting like salt and dirt and fear as he crashed their lips together to give two resuscitating breaths before continuing the compressions.

 

This was not the type of kiss Chet had longed for during all those restless nights. This was something terrible and undoing, something terrifying and unstoppable. This wasn’t love; this was fear.

 

Curt’s eyes unfocused. His body felt fuzzy. Faintly he heard Owen speaking as he breathed a shallow rhythm in time to his compressions.

 

“Come on Curt, not like this.”

 

Curt couldn’t hang on to the meaning of the words but the sound soothed him. There was something euphoric about suffocating, about feeling his body wait for blood that wasn’t coming and shutting down slowly as it ran out of ways to survive without his heart beating.

 

“I can’t lose you,” Owen said angrily, choking back a sob. Curt stared up at him with unseeing eyes. “Not now, not like this.”

 

Owen, growing frustrated, punctuated his next words with a stronger, more forceful compression as he pressed heavily into Curt’s chest.

 

“Not.” Press. “Like.” Press. “This!” Press.

 

Everything slammed back into focus for one brilliant moment. 

 

Featherlight hands flew to rest on his cheeks, strikingly soft compared to the terrible strength and pressure he’d felt from them before. Curt was turned on his side, but he still stared up. Owen, his face stricken with tears, and his cheek freckled with blood, crashed into view above him. The dust kicked up around them caught the light, surrounding and clothing Owen in a golden haze. He stared down at him with tremendous fragility, both beautiful and breakable, but Curt didn’t have time to think on that before his grip on the world slipped once again, sliding through his fingers like sand slipping through an hourglass no matter how hard he tried to grip it tight. His vision blurred.

 

The last thing he saw before he passed out completely was an angel kneeling over him and weeping.

Chapter Text

His throat burned. 

 

Curt tasted day old bile as he blinked into consciousness. The world around him refused to focus, and he could see nothing but darkness for a moment. Slowly, agonizingly slowly, the vignette on his vision ebbed away, and low light from a setting (rising?) sun lit up the room around him. He shifted, trying to see anything but the ceiling, but a sharp pain stabbed through his chest and side. He grunted, reflexively squeezing his hands into fists. 

 

His left hand closed around something. 

 

Someone’s breath hitched. Curt was fairly certain it wasn’t his.

 

Despite the pain, Curt turned his head. He locked eyes with Owen, his beautiful, perfect Owen, who looked as if he hadn’t slept in days. His hair was wet, as if he’d recently showered, but there were already streaks down his cheeks that seemed to have been tracked by tears. The bags under his eyes, normally barely noticeable, looked more pronounced and almost bruise-like in appearance. Curt grimaced despite himself.

 

Owen’s big brown eyes locked with his as Curt squeezed what he now assumed to be Owen’s hand in his own, and Curt found that language escaped him. Thirteen languages under his belt, and none of them could describe the fragile, striking allure of Owen. Was there a word for a man who wore tragedy like it was the most beautiful piece of himself. Was there a word for a man who stared with an expression of fragility and weariness personified? Was there a word for an Angel who tasted like ash and brimstone and sin on the tongue?

 

Was there a word for love that fit more aptly than Owen’s name?

 

His name, which slipped, unbeckoned, from Curt’s lips.

 

“I’m here, I’m here,” Owen soothed, sounding a wind’s gust away from shattering, before Curt could even register that he’d said anything. Owen shifted beside him, and Curt realized that he was laid out on a bed of sorts. Owen had pulled a chair up beside him. Despite the ache in his…  well, everywhere , Curt thought Owen looked more wrecked than he most likely did. “I’m here, I’m not going anywhere, I promise.”

 

Curt couldn’t find the breath to speak. He didn’t know what to say. He wanted to ask what was going on, why he was in pain, where he was, but all he could manage was a shaky inhale.

 

“Owen?” He asked again, and his voice cracked. If someone would ask him years  down the road just why, he’d not know whether to say because he was in pain, because he was scared, or because he was consumed with nothing else but worship for the man beside him.

 

“I’m here, I’m here,” Owen said again, and a single tear slipped down his cheek. He gripped Curt’s hand tighter, bringing up his other hand so that both his hands were clasped around Curt’s as he brought Curt’s knuckles to his lips. His voice broke into a sob. “Oh, god Curt, I’m here, I’m here.”

 

And that was enough. 

 

Curt was crying too, even if he didn’t realize it until he tasted salt on his lips. He reached across his body slowly, ignoring the terrible pain it caused as he pulled at the bandages—bandages?—around his chest and torso. He settled his palm on Owen’s cheek, seeking the warmth and the assurance that this was real, real, real.

 

Owen reached up to press his hand against Curt’s hand at his cheek, then quickly turned and kissed his palm before settling back into Curt’s touch. 

 

Curt reveled in the tenderness.

 

Memories came flooding back, then:  their fight, Owen’s capture, the Kremlin, the bullet, the car. Out of order and slightly hazy, but memories none the same, they came to him like a flood came to a city—with little warning and bearing much pain.

 

“I’m so sorry.” Curt didn’t mean to whisper. He doubted he could rasp any words out much louder.

 

“No,” Owen said, firmly, despite the terrible sadness he wore. “You don’t have to be. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have picked the fight with you, I shouldn’t have gotten captured, it’s my fault.”

 

“S’not.” Curt barely breathed, but he meant it with every ounce of his being.

 

“At the Kremlin, I thought I’d never see you again, and, god, I thought I’d deserve that,” Owen stuttered, and the single tear turned into two, then three, than so many that they made a stream that made it too difficult to differentiate between drops.

 

“Owen,” Curt breathed out, trying to put the conviction he felt into his shaking voice. 

 

“And then you came, and I had so much to say that I didn’t have the time to get out, and then you got shot—” another sob shook through Owen’s body— “oh, god, Curt, you got shot.”

 

“Noticed,” Curt said, trying a weak smile. Owen didn’t seem to hear his sad attempt at humor because he kept rambling. 

 

“And then you, oh my god, Curt.” Owen was rocking back and forth, holding tight to both of Curt’s hands like a lifeline. Curt’s hand at Owen’s cheek was officially soaked by the tears Owen couldn’t seem to stop.  He finally choked out, “I thought you were going to die.”

 

“Didn’t.” Curt tried again. He tried to shrug his shoulders but that pulled uncomfortably at his side so he froze mid movement.

 

“And I just,” Owen shook his head, “oh, god, Curt.”

 

Owen stood, still holding one of Curt’s hands but letting the other fall away from his face. He stopped low over Curt, and soon all he could see was Owen. 

 

And then Owen was kissing him. 

 

He kissed him hard and hungry, like he was a drowning man and Curt’s lips were his only chance at oxygen, like he was a dying man and Curt’s kiss was the cure, kissed him messy and unpracticed and unexpectedly but with every fibre of his being. He tasted like salt and chapstick, smelled like whiskey and earl grey tea, and Curt kissed back, just as desperate, just as hopeful, just as rough and raw and real, real, real.

 

 He didn’t hurt so bad with his lips on his.

 

When Owen drew away, gasping for air between his sobs and their unbroken kiss, Curt felt a tingling in his body. Electricity crackled through him, and, despite his numerous injuries and immeasurable pains, he felt so derisively alive.

 

“Curt Mega, you’re going to be the death of me,” Owen whispered, placing his forehead against Curt’s.

 

“Never. I’ll never let you down,” Curt said softly, a small smile tugging at his lips. Exhaustion settled over his bones. His smile dropped into a numb expression. He managed to mutter, “What happened?”

 

“I called in every favor I had. Got you a doctor,” Owen said, eyes still closed as he took Curt’s face in his hands and just held him close. “Got is a motel a little ways away from Moscow. Got us new identities and weapons and clothes.”

 

Curt opened his eyes to look over Owen’s tired face.

 

“Job’s not done, O,” he said, hating that it was true. Something unreadable crossed Owen’s face. He drew back, shaking his head.

 

“Why not?” He asked, his voice so quiet that the natural ambiance of the room nearly drowned it out. “What if we just disappeared, together?”

 

Curt imagined it for a moment. They’d run away somewhere that the war didn’t reach, hide away from society past their grocery runs. They’d hold each other in the safety and privacy of their own home, a home they shared with one another. 

 

And Luka would run free, capable of hurting others who couldn’t defend themselves.

 

“Can’t,” Curt said, and a shadow of hurt crossed Owen’s expression. Curt amended his statement, “Not yet.” 

 

“Can’t leave Luka?” Owen asked. It wasn’t judgemental. It was barely a question. Curt bobbed his head, hoping it would pass as a nod. Owen got the memo. “After we take him down?”

 

“After,” Curt started, reaching up to grab both of Owen’s hands from his face. “Owen Carvour, will you run away with me?”

 

“It’s not running away,” Owen said, sounding more sure of himself than any other time Curt had heard him speak. “It’s running to you.”

 

“We take Luka down, then we disappear?” Curt asked, and he didn’t care how fanciful the dream, he clung to it. 

 

“We disappear, together.”

 

Curt shifted, and the exhaustion hit him again. Dust had settled on his bones in the … (hours? minutes?) however long he’d been asleep. 

 

“Need sleep.” He muttered, his eyes already fluttering between opened and closed. Owen brushed his hair back, but prepared to pull away. 

 

“Okay,” he said, seemingly understanding that as a dismissal. 

 

Curt reached up to snag his wrist as he moved back, catching it in his hand and holding tight enough to stay Owen’s movement’s. Owen looked down at his hand in Curt’s grasp, an unreadable expression once again taking over his face. He curled the fingers on his free hand around the wrist on Curt’s hand that was holding Owen’s wrist. For a moment they rested there, unmoving.

 

“Stay?” It was somewhere between a plea and a prayer. Curt didn’t think it mattered which was which anymore. Owen’s whole face broke into a tired smile so full of love that it made Curt’s ribs ache. 

 

“I’m not going anywhere.”

 

First, Owen reached into the back of his waistband and withdrew his handgun, which he delicately placed in the bedside table. Then, carefully, Owen climbed into the bed beside Curt, and he took his time situating himself so that he wouldn’t hurt Curt. He curled one arm up behind Curt’s neck, tangling his fingers in Curt’s hair, and he threw the other over Curt’s chest protectively.

 

Curt fell asleep with an unspoken “I love you” on his lips.

Chapter Text

Curt regained his strength slowly—achingly slowly. 

 

First, he relearned how to move. The small limp he walked with he could now pass off as a little extra swagger in his steps. The way he instinctively cradled his chest when he heard a car backfire or a heavy object drop could be written off as nothing more than a muscle-memory reaction. 

 

Over the course of a month, he and Owen simply existed. They moved around as constantly as they could. Owen kept in contact with the doctor who had treated Curt, though he rarely ever had the doctor over for in person visits anymore. Owen acted as a crutch or a cane when Curt needed him, and if the hand on his back slipped too low to be deemed a simple friendly gesture then, we’ll, Curt wasn’t telling.

 

They shared evey stiff motel bed, laying close enough that their backs pressed together. Owen always fretted about bumping Curt funny and causing a flare up of pain. Curt didn’t quite know how to describe to him that he didn’t think he could ever feel pain if Owen was the one inflicting it. Not his gentle, delicate, beautiful Owen, with his tender touches and careful caresses. The pain was always secondary to the joy of simply existing in his orbit.

 

Curt allowed himself to think that this could be their life. The domestic aspect of this recovery period left them both far more comfortable with one another, more so than even in previous situations. Curt knew Owen so completely now—more completely than he knew himself.

 

During late nights, when Curt’s aching wounds refused to let him sleep, Owen would sit, straddling his hips, and trace over every scar that marked Curt’s skin. The first time he did it, Curt hadn’t understood Owen’s intentions, and he’d blushed and mumbled something about not being ready for that step.

 

He still remembered how Owen laughed. 

 

“If you so decide that that’s something you want in the future, we’ll talk,” he’d said. “But for now, I was just going to ask about this scar.”

 

And that was how they spent most of their nights. Owen atop Curt. Curt holding Owen’s hips. They fit together like a puzzle, like they’d been molded for each other. Owen was always careful not to lean too much weight on his bad leg or Curt’s injuries.

 

“This one?” Owen had asked one night, tracing the scar along Curt’s collarbone. 

 

Curt shivered under his touch, closing his eyes. He listened to the sound of a rainstorm outside their window and tried to ground himself.

 

“Near miss in Nicaragua. Madman with a machete didn’t like my accent.”

 

The longer version of that story included six months worth of survival training keeping Curt alive or the three weeks he spent out running a cartel in the wild forests on Nicaragua’s southernmost border. If not for his training, he’s never have survived the long period without fresh water and food. 

 

Owen didn’t need to know those details though, so Curt didn’t offer them up. Often, Owen would worry himself over a wound long since healed, so Curt had started watering down his stories to help Owen take them all in.

 

Owen tutted and traced his fingers downward, coming to a stop just above Curt’s left nipple. 

 

“This one?”

 

“Idiot with a pen. Tried to stab me but barely tore through my suit jacket.”

 

The idiot with a pen may have been a one night stand, but that definitely didn’t matter. 

 

Owen fell asleep that night with his hand over Curt’s left side, and Curt couldn’t stop himself from clutching his hand to his heart. He held on for dear life, feeling like a man who was trying to hold smoke. If he let go for an instant, would Owen slip away?

 

The next time Owen traced in his scars, he took interest in a jagged white line thinner than a sheet of paper’s height that zig zagged from Curt’s right hip to his navel.

 

“This one?”

 

“Interrogation with a Mossad agent. Threatened to disembowel me.”

 

“Were you scared?”

 

“No.”

 

“Why?” Owen looked up, meeting Curt’s intent stare with an inquisitive one.

 

Curt shifted, readjusting the way Owen leaned against him. He brought his hands up and down Owen’s torso, relishing in the way his eyes fluttered closed.

 

“Didn’t have any reason to be, I guess. Only my mom would have missed me.”

 

Owen’s eyes snapped open, and he stared down at Curt with such an intense gaze that Curt feared he’d turn to dust beneath it. How quick those brown eyes turned hard as stone. 

 

Then, those eyes softened into warm,  wet earth the day after rainfall. The color reminded Curt of running in the mud as a child. He wondered if Owen held footprints in the expanses of his eyes. They seemed big enough to hold their own little worlds.

 

“And if he threatened that now?” Owen asked softly, leaning forward to press a delicate kiss to the scar. Curt gasped, his eyes closing at the electrifying sensation of Owen’s lips against his skin.

 

“Terrified,” Curt said in a breathless voice, “I’d be terrified.”

 

The days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months, and Curt couldn’t decide what he dreaded more:  seeing Luka again or breaking this newfound sense of normality.

 

He could go days without thinking of A.S.S. It usually wasn’t until Cynthia called that work crossed his mind. He knew Owen often took time to himself to plan but, for Curt, these excursions at dingy motel rooms were the closest to heaven that he’d ever been. Not even Luka tainted that view. 

 

Still, Curt knew it wouldn’t last forever. 

 

On one night in particular, Curt felt the time drawing nearer when he’d have to get back to work and focus on catching (or killing) Luka. He saw the stress in Owen clear as day. He saw it in the lines in his face, in the tension in his shoulders, and in the way he moved, as if the world was about to come crashing down around them. 

 

Curt flipped the script on Owen. He wanted to give Owen the peace of mind he so desperately needed.

 

Curt threw his leg over Owen before Owen could completely settle into their shared bed. Without thinking too much, he gently pressed his lips to Owen’s. The response was immediate. Owen kissed back like Curt was the air he breathed, like he was drowning and Curt was salvation. They moved in tandem, and the small gesture became something much more intimate, much more intense. 

 

When Curt pulled away, Owen still had his eyes closed. 

 

Curt traced over a scar on Owen’s left shoulder.

 

“You got this one in Germany, dealing with that spy from the east side.” Curt leaned down to kiss the long since healed wound.

 

He focused his attention next on a small triangle shaped scar near Owen’s second rib. 

 

“You got this one in South Africa, after we accidentally pissed off that politician.” As he kissed this one, Owen’s breath caught. Curt could feel the subtle shaking beneath his legs and gave Owen a reassuring squeeze to the shoulder.

 

He lifted one of Owen’s hands, taking a gentle finger and stroking down the still-red scars on his wrists.

 

“You got this one from Luka’s compound.” Curt intertwined their fingers, then pressed another kiss to Owen’s wrist. “I swear to you that I will learn every scar, no matter how long it takes.”

 

“Curt,” Owen said, but it barely came out above a whisper. “I don’t want you to have to know any more scars. We’ve suffered enough.”

 

“One more,” Curt said, dipping his head to kiss Owen’s collar bone. “One more mission.”

 

“One more mission,” Owen repeated like it was a prayer. “One more.”

 

Curt fell asleep that night so tangled in Owen’s limbs that he was no longer sure where he ended and where Owen began. 

 

One more, he told himself. One more.

Chapter Text

Curt awoke in a cold sweat to the buzzing of his communicator. 

 

Glancing a clock, he saw that it was nearly two in the morning. He rolled over and threw a hand out across the bed, in search of Owen, but he only met empty sheets. Curt pushed himself up to a seated position. Rubbing sleep from his eyes, he took a moment to let his vision adjust to the darkness around him. 

 

Faintly, beyond the buzzing of his watch on the bedside table, he could hear running water. He guessed Owen had gotten in the shower, despite it being an ungodly early hour in the morning. Curt had long since stopped commenting on Owen’s horrendous sleep schedule. 

 

Shifting, Curt reached for his communicator. He answered the call with a yawn.

 

“Mega here.” He kept his voice low, careful not to disturb the quiet that Owen probably wanted.

 

“Mega. Status report.”

 

Cynthia. Of course.

 

“Nothing to report,” Curt said. What he didn’t say was nothing since the last time you called me ten hours ago. Cynthia meant well and really just wanted her top agent back in the game and moved on from this drag of a mission, but that didn’t mean that her requests for twice daily updates were any less annoying.

 

“Luka’s a loose end and an asshole. I won’t tell you again, Mega, get rid of him,” Cynthia griped at him through the little speaker in his watch. Curt half debated pulling the speaker out at this point.

 

“Yeah, working on it,” Curt whispered. 

 

The shower stopped. Curt needed to rush out of this conversation soon. Owen would want to sleep, and Cynthia didn’t exactly have the best voice for a lullaby, even if Curt found himself lulled to sleep in his debriefings with her. That usually had more to do with the information than Cynthia.

 

“Work faster, Mega. We’re going to need you on a new op pretty soon. No one else speaks Croatian.”

 

Curt suppressed his snort. He knew damn well that at least three other agents at least spoke Croatian, one of whom was far better with the language than he. What Cynthia really meant was that he had skills useful in other missions. Curt didn’t disagree, but he couldn’t pull out of Russia just yet. Not before he understood Luka’s end game.

 

“I’ll do my best.”

 

The bathroom door opened. Owen, wearing only sweatpants, stepped out whilst towel-drying his hair. He padded over to the bed, his footsteps almost completely silent after several years of training meant to render him nearly undetectable. 

 

When Owen neared the bed, he looked between Curt and his watch with a small smile. 

 

“Cynthia?” He mouthed. Curt nodded and sighed as quietly as he could. Owen sniggered and sat beside him on the bed. As he did so, Curt had a complete view of Owen’s chest, muscular and marred, and the burn scar that was mostly healed at his waistline. 

 

Curt’s blood boiled as he recalled the way Luka had burned Owen, he’d burned him just to get to Curt, to make him suffer. 

 

“We’ll get Luka, Cynthia,” Curt said after a beat of silence. “I’m going to bring him down. 

 

“Good.” A beat. “Oh, and Mega, Barb has been complaining about losing some pictures of the two of you together for the past twenty hours, you asshole.”

 

“I didn’t lose them!” Mega sat up and rubbed his eyes. A part of him wondered pictures? because he couldn’t recall Barb ever taking some of the two of them. The other part just groaned. “Why are you mad at me about it?”

 

“Because if I get angry at Barb, she gets sad, and I feel like a dick,” Cynthia barked. “Now go get that Mother Russia motherfucker.”

 

The line clicked and went dead.

 

Owen, shaking from the effort of suppressing his laughter, finally let it loose.

 

“Always a treat, our Cynthia,” he said with a cheeky grin.

 

“Always,” Curt agreed. “Why are you up so late, old sport?”

 

Owen shrugged, pulling on loose sweatpants and one of Curt’s sleep shirts. Curt, with no annoyance whatsoever, had to admit his old baseball tees looked far better on Owen than they ever had on him.

 

“Couldn’t sleep,” he said, his smile faltering only just. “No worries. I’m joining you now, ducky.”

 

Curt shifted to give him space in the bed before rolling over and throwing an arm across his stomach. 

 

“Nightmare?”

 

“Nightmare.”

 

“Luka?”

 

“Luka.”

 

Curt pressed a kiss to Owen’s temple. 

 

“We’re going to get him.”

 

“We’re going to get him.”

 

We’re going to get him.

Chapter Text

A blackbird sat on the telephone wire outside their motel.

 

Curt watched it through tired eyes as he waited for Owen to finish shoving what supplies they needed into the back of their stolen truck that early morning. They’d packed the munitions charges and any extra ammunition they might need carefully, wrapped in newspaper with a headline he ignored—Breaking News:  Prominent Oligarch and Decorated Diplomat Mikhail Yenen Found Murdered—and stacked with care in their sturdiest cardboard box. Now, Owen took his time arranging it in a steady place in the trunk. Neither of them wanted to hit a bump that triggered an explosive accident.

 

The bird reminded him of his favorite song. It reminded him of a bar in upstate New York and a jazz singer with sultry eyes and a smooth voice. It reminded him of a haze of cigarette smoke and the smell of whiskey, reminded him of Owen, leaning halfway over the bar with his smile wide and teasing, laughing as Curt told yet another terrible joke.

 

The driver’s side door opened. Owen slid in.

 

“The compound we have information on,” he began, hesitant and soft. “It’s an old weapons facility.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“It’s the same one we escaped from originally,” Owen admitted. Curt didn’t flinch. He didn’t. “I feel a little bit as if we’ve jumped free of the frying pan and straight into the fire.”

 

The feeling of Owen’s lips against his throat sent a distracted hand rubbing at his neck.

 

“Well,” Curt said, smiling, “not straight.”

 

Owen reached out to cup Curt’s cheek and ran a thumb over his lips. 

 

“You insufferable bastard.”

 

He leaned in and kissed him, hard and heavy. Curt pulled him in by the fabric of his jacket, pulled him in and kissed back like he expected Owen to melt away if he let go. He tasted like cheap booze and the mint of his toothpaste. 

 

Curt slammed his eyes closed and let himself think of nothing but Owen.

 

When they finally pulled apart from one another, Owen settled his hands onto the steering wheel and gearshift. As he put the car into reverse and they pulled away from their tiny slice of domestic heaven in the form of a run down old Russian motel with a flickering LED light shining out vacancy, like a comment on the part of Curt’s heart that felt a little emptier leaving it behind, Curt curled his fingers gently around Owen’s wrist.

 

“We can do this, O,” Curt said. “And we’re going to blow it sky high.”

 

“We’re going to blow him sky high,” Owen amended, his jaw tight.

 

Curt leaned back in his seat. A part of him still wondered why—why did Luka do what he did, why did he torture them, why did he study them, why them, why now, why this, why, why, why—but he didn’t disagree with Owen. Luka needed to pay in blood for his crimes against Owen, and if that meant a few questions went unanswered, then Curt would survive.

 

As they pulled out of the parking lot and turned down the road, leaving behind that sleepy motel and dreamy town forever, the blackbird took flight. It followed the car for a moment, out of sight. When its wings stuttered and its body convulsed and it dropped like a stone to the earth, cold and lifeless, Curt, his eyes locked on where they were headed instead of where they’d come from, remained blissfully unaware.

 

The drive took three nights. 

 

They alternated on and off, trading who drove and who got to rest, stopping only for gas and for a meal here and there when their snack supplies ran low. Much of the drive was silent. Brief touches and delicate kisses replaced conversation. Moments that screamed I am here, you are safe, we will survive this, too, and left a sweet taste in his mouth happened every now and again, at long stoplights and gas stations. 

 

All the sitting aggravated Curt’s ribs. He ignored it. 

 

On the final day of their drive, as the sun rose during the third morning, it began to snow. The crystalline flakes caught the rays of the sunrise and fragmented the light out in a billion tiny, twinkling sparks. The clinquant view of the horizon through the windshield gave Curt enough pause to consider waking Owen. He’d slept the night while Curt drove the graveyard shift, and he realistically had a few more hours of rest still allotted to him before Curt needed to switch and get some sleep of his own. Still, a sight like this was rare.

 

He turned to shake Owen and froze quicker than the winter air.

 

Pulling the car over on the shoulder of the nearly empty highway, Curt put the car in park and stared.

 

Awash in the red glow of the sunrise, Owen’s peaceful form looked ethereal. The color of the sunbeams set his brown hair on fire, and the light accentuated every curve, every slant, every sharp edge of his cheekbones, jawline, and nose. His lips curled into a relaxed smile, a natural smile, the kind that only a good dream and some deep sleep could stir up. 

 

Curt didn’t have the heart to wake him.

 

Instead, he gave himself a few minutes, a few stolen, precious moments, to commit the way Owen looked in that moment to memory. No matter what became of them, he knew one thing to be true.

 

This memory of Owen, peacefully asleep in the passenger’s seat as the sky blew down soft snowflakes and the sun painted him in brilliant crimsons and yellows, would never leave him. Not even Luka could take this from him.

 

Not even Luka.

Chapter Text

He woke Owen up. 

 

Owen stirred, dragging himself from sleep the way one might drag a body to a grave—slowly, awkwardly, half mournful of the loss of the gentle confines of sleep, half unaware of just what he mourned.

 

Curt put the car back into drive and pulled out onto the highway. He edged the car quicker until the speedometer read at around one hundred and twenty kilometers. 

 

“What’s happening, ducky?” Owen asked, his voice deeper and raspier than usual. Sleep colored his speech, stretched his vowels out and slammed his consonants together in a tired not-quite slur of words. 

 

“We’re nearly there. Maybe an hour or two,” Curt warned. He downshifted gears, wary of the arcing, mountainous roads that twisted the road in winding paths, and Owen caught his wrist.

 

“And then we will find Luka,” Owen murmured, his words clearer. “And we will kill him.”

 

“Damn right.”

 

Owen’s fingers curled tighter around his wrist. He smiled, all teeth, and glanced at the horizon. 

 

The red sun rose steadily before them, burning the clouds into a scarlet hue, like a gaping wound in the sky weeping blood unto the horizon below. Curt blinked, and flashes of Owen’s side bubbling that same crimson color flooded his brain. 

 

His teeth ground together as the memory of Luka burning Owen’s side pushed to the forefront of his mind. 

 

Luka would pay for what he did to Owen. Luka would pay.

 

The drive continued in near silence, save for their quiet breathing. In the span of two hours, Curt found himself driving up a long gravel road. The road would lead to their final destination, he knew. 

 

His heart hammered in his chest.

 

No going back.

 

“We need to establish a plan before we go in. Something more specific than our current try not to die plan,” Owen said, rolling his neck side to side. 

 

Curt pulled the car to the side of the road and into a ditch. He parked just within the heavy treeline that ran right up to the road, and he prayed that the foliage would offer some cover to help hide their getaway car from any passersby. 

 

“What if we—”

 

A beeping cut him off. 

 

Curt glanced down at his wrist. Owen shrugged, and Curt sighed as he answered it.

 

“Mega, Mega, answer, this is Cynthia,” a familiar voice crackled to life.

 

“Hello, Cynthia,” Curt said, shaking his head. 

 

Owen leaned in, quiet for now, but listening. He shifted closer. His arm nearest to Curt snaked up and around, coming to a rest at the base of Curt’s neck, where it met his spine, and he brushed his thumb over the buzzed hair at the lowest point of his hairline. Suppressing a shiver at the, frankly, ticklish sensation, Curt smiled at him with a shake of his head.

 

“This mission is now officially sanctioned. You’ve unknowingly stumbled upon one of the biggest weapon’s facilities that side of the Berlin Wall,” Cynthia snapped. “Barb made the discovery doing research for your escapade when it was less,” there’s a beat, “ legal . I need you to get some photos of the weapons they’ve been developing.”

 

“I’m going to be a little preoccupied with Luka,” Curt said.

 

Owen, ever the tease, took notice of his barely controlled twitching and ran his thumb over the ticklish spot on his neck once again. Curt jolted, holding in a laugh and shaking his head.

 

“You’re going to have to multitask, Mega,” Cynthia barked, and Curt could practically hear her taking a drag of her cigarette. “I’m looping Barb into this frequency. If you need her or I, just call.”

 

“Can do,” Curt said, twitching away from Owen’s fingers at the back of his head. “See you soon, Cynthia.”

 

The static crackled for a moment. 

 

“Rule number two, Mega,” Cynthia whispered. “And rule forty five.”

 

“Of course,” Curt said. For once, he fully intended to follow Cynthia’s bullshit guidelines.

 

“Call when it’s done.”

 

The line clicked off. 

 

Owen, no longer restraining himself, tickled the back of Curt’s neck and behind his ear, scratching with the lightest pressure. 

 

Curt laughed, deep and from the belly. 

 

“I didn’t know you were ticklish,” Owen says. He pauses the assault, instead opting to scratch the back of Curt’s neck. His other hand rests on Curt’s wrist, a gesture that, as this point, calms him down so completely that he doesn’t even fear walking into this hellish compound. 

 

“Behind my ears and on the back of my neck,” Curt admitted. “Deathly so.”

 

Owen chuckled, but his first finger shifted forward to poke the shell of Curt’s ear.

 

“Looks like we have a second half of this mission, now.”

 

“Yeah,” Curt shook his head. “Luka does first, though. Then I’ll do whatever errand Cynthia needs me to run.”

 

Owen hummed, thoughtfully.

 

“Rule number two I know,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “But what is rule forty five?”

 

Curt shook his head again, this time more vigorously. 

 

“It’s basically the same rule. Forty five just demands that you watch your six.”

 

“Well, I’ll be watching your six, that’s for sure,” Owen said, softly. Curt smiled.

 

“About that,” he said. “I have an idea about how we can get into the compound.”

Chapter Text

The compound looked emptier than Curt remembered it. Without the haze of adrenaline and a broken body, Curt could make out far more details. The lining of the roof in a curved concrete detailing, he didn’t remember. The arc of the windows and the geometric designs carved into the sills beneath them, he didn’t remember. The shape of the compound, curling like a horseshoe around an open patch of grass, he vividly remembered, if only because the quick cover it offered had aided them in their escape. 

 

Curt followed behind Owen, quick and quiet, as he led the way to the edging of the building and pressed his back against the wall. Owen carried a gun and a sense of surety, both of which gave Curt a fluttering like the warmth of security in his chest. This time, he knew that they could fight back.

 

Luka had kept them chained. He’d kept them apart by very nature of the methods of torture he employed. Luka hadn’t given them the chance to fight back. Like a muzzle taming a feral dog's snapping teeth, he’d bound their hands and disarmed them.

 

Curt scoffed. Only a coward used violence when they knew their victim couldn’t fight back. Neither he nor Owen were cowards, and Luka was about to learn just how much.

 

Owen jerked his head to the side and raised an eyebrow. Curt nodded, content to follow his lead. 

 

Off like a shot, Owen scampered along the edge of the building, sprinting past the windows that lined the walls, stretching from the ground to about Curt’s hip, like the one they’d climbed out of a couple of months previous, hoping to be seen by as few people as possible. Two of them needed to take out an impossible number of them, without any positive identification of just how many bodies they’d be up against. They couldn’t afford getting spotted so early on.

 

Owen paused, crouched by a window, and glanced into the room within. Content with whatever he saw, he looked up at Curt and smiled.

 

“Do what you do best,” he whispered, gleefully.

 

“And what is it I do best?” Curt asked, already rounding Owen to stand in front of the window.

 

“You break things,” Owen said, smiling so wide that, for a moment, Curt half imagined that they were in a bar in upstate New York, swaying to a song that ghosted through his dreams, neither touching the other but both sharing clouded glances, the night Curt realized he was in love. “Which is always extremely helpful, might I add.”

 

“Always?” Curt asked, snorting.

 

Before Owen could respond, Curt lifted his leg to his chest and kicked it out. He slammed his shoe into the window—once, twice, thrice—until it gave way and shattered in. 

 

Owen leaned forward to admire Curt’s handywork. Slipping his jacket off, he wrapped it around his fist and used his newly protected hand to clear away the remainder of the windowpane lingering around the frame. He glanced back up at Curt with that same smile as before.

 

“I do so love it when you get to show off that brute strength of yours,” he said. Curt chuckled.

 

He gripped the window frame and slid into the room below, landing with a solid thud on his feet. He turned back to see Owen leaning halfway into the window, resting on his knees.

 

“Let me help you in then,” Curt suggested, his arms outstretched toward him, “so I can show off some more of my brute strength.”

 

“Americans.” Owen tutted. “So forward.”

 

He slipped into the room with grace and a grin. Curt caught him by wrapping his arms around Owen’s thighs and stopping him from falling further. Owen braced his hands on Curt’s shoulders and stared down at him, nearly two heads taller in this lifted position. One of his hands rose to Curt’s cheek, which he leaned into readily. Curt’s eyes fluttered closed as Owen ran his thumb across Curt’s bottom lip. 

 

“Curt Mega,” Owen said softly, as Curt gently loosed his grip so that Owen could slide to the floor. His body stayed in contact with Curt’s the whole way, and he wrapped the hand not currently preoccupied with caressing Curt’s cheekbone around Curt’s waist to keep him pressed against him. Curt wrapped his arms around Owen’s shoulders and grinned, his eyes fluttering closed as Owen’s fingers traced over his skin. “You’re going to be the death of me.”

 

Curt closed the distance between them with familiar ease. Their lips collided, already moving in tandem. Years of practice dancing around one another in combat translated to romantic teamwork. They kissed like old lovers—sure and sweet. They kissed like young lovers—all tongue and teeth.

 

When they finally parted, Curt tangled his fingers in Owen’s hair.

 

“Never,” he said, breathlessly.

 

“We’re going to finish this,” Owen said, resting his forehead against Curt’s. His lips brushed against Curt’s when he spoke. “We’re going to get him.”

 

Curt closed his eyes and held tight to Owen.

 

“We’re going to finish this,” he parroted. 

 

They pulled apart and readied their weapons. Curt glanced around at the horribly familiar concrete walls, concrete floors, concrete ceilings. Curt glanced back at Owen—concrete heart.

 

He made a silent promise. This was where it would end. Luka would never hurt them again.  He could not take anything else from them ever again.

 

He could not take anything else from them ever again.

 

He could not take anything else from them ever again.

Chapter Text

Two hallways into the compound, Curt couldn’t help but nudge Owen.

 

“You get us lost?” He asked with a hushed voice. “Again?”

 

“Again? I—” Owen said indignantly before cutting himself off with a snort. He shook his head, dropping back to a whisper. “It’s you that always gets us lost.”

 

Curt huffed, checking behind them as they rounded another corner. Both he and Owen kept their weapons raised and at the ready, poised to attack at any sign of trouble, and the warm feeling in his chest, something akin to excitement but beyond it, burned through his stomach and up into his sternum. 

 

“In my defense, you had me translating Spanish for both of us, and I am much worse at it than Russian,” Curt said, half a step behind Owen, who led the charge forward through the maze of empty hallways. “It’s not my fault I got us lost when I couldn’t understand the directions that woman gave us.”

 

Half the compound seemed abandoned. Cobwebs covered every corner; dust lingered in the air. No one heard their whispered exchange. No one tried to stop them. The appalling security could mean one of two things:  either Luka’s entire operation only function out of a tiny portion of this building, which meant security would fuck them up the ass soon, or he was so completely confident in his men’s capabilities that he didn’t see the point of having security patrols. Curt could see it going either way—for both efficiency and arrogance—when it came to Luka. 

 

“What about the time you took us on a shortcut through the Karakoram mountains in India?” Owen shot back, grinning. “And we almost froze to death?”

 

Curt scoffed.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he grumbled, “but if your country could learn not to take what doesn’t belong to it, we might not have been running from the locals because you decided to speak with that pretty accent of yours.”

 

“Fair point actually,” Owen said thoughtfully. After a pause, he turned and gave Curt an exaggerated wink. “Glad to know you like the accent, Ducky. I can lay it on thick next time we settle in for the evening.”

 

Cheeks burning red, Curt snorted.

 

“Slip of the tongue.” He tried to hide his embarrassment by ducking his head and rubbing the back of his neck. “‘S’not that pretty.”

 

“Mhm,” Owen hummed. He turned down another corner, and Curt dutifully followed at his heel, content to watch his back. “Oh, what about Libya, two years ago—”

 

“Okay, Jesus , I get it,” Curt said, scrubbing his hand across his face and pinching the bridge of his nose. “I get us lost most of the time, I’ll admit it. Just hurry up and find Luka so we can blow this place to hell and leave.”

 

Owen sent a look over his shoulder.

 

“I’m not a bloodhound. It’s going to take a second,” he said, but the mention of murdering Luka and destroying his whole operation split a smile across his face. “Also, I thought Cynthia wanted you to recon on what his organization was doing. You know, take pictures and stuff?”

 

Curt shrugged, glancing past another row of windows looking out at the world beyond the compound. Blue skies burned a bright gold. The sun would set soon, plunging the outside world into darkness. Curt couldn’t wait to light up the night with a little bit of good ol’ American tomfuckery. 

 

“Cynthia wants blueprints from some weapon they're developing. Probably scared it’s nuclear,” Curt said. He and Owen went up a stone staircase, and Curt had to sprint up the steps to keep up with the longer legged Owen, who could take the stairs two at a time. “The way I see it, they shouldn’t have the blueprints to begin with. So I should destroy them. If that happens to include a copious amount of explosives, then c’est la vie.”

 

“Well, points for dramatics, I suppose,” Owen said with a shrug, before tutting. “You forgot to bring the C4, though, old man.”

 

Curt chuckled, despite himself.

 

“Didn’t need to,” Curt adjusted his grip on his firearm. “Luka’s got his men packing explosives. When one of his men grabbed my face I could smell the lithium grease on his clothes, and he had callouses on his palm where most bomb makers I’ve met do.”

 

Owen halted so abruptly that Curt slammed into his back. He turned fully, his handgun still raised, but his freehand shot out to grab Curt by the front of his shirt.

 

“Felt the callouses?” He asked, his voice low. Curt shrugged, looking between Owen’s vice grip on his t-shirt and his furrowed brows.

 

“Yeah, when Luka’s cronies interrogated me at the gala, one of them grabbed my face pretty hard. I got up close and personal with his palm when he used it to gag me.”

 

Owen’s eyes darkened.

 

“Which one?”

 

“You killed him already, O,” Curt said, softly, reaching up to grab Owen’s wrist. His fingers curled into the fabric of his shirt and held tight enough to turn his knuckles white. “You killed him when you rescued me.”

 

“No one gets to touch you like that,” Owen whispered. His voice felt more dangerous than the gun in Curt’s hand. Owen’s hand unfurled from within his shirt and raised to Curt’s face. He cupped Curt’s cheek and tan a thumb along his cheekbone. “No one but me.”

 

Curt let out a soft noise as Owen traced his skin in a now familiar pattern. A shiver ripped up his spine at the feeling.

 

“No one but you.”

 

A gunshot rang out.

 

Chapter Text

The bullet zinged off of the concrete wall to Owen’s left. 

 

Curt and Owen jumped backward, crouching low, and their weapons snapped to attention. 

 

Three men, each dressed in black, pressed forward, and more gunshots split the silence. They stood about twenty feet back, partially hidden around a corner to another hallway, but Curt and Owen had enough line of sight to make a move.

 

Curt focused on the centermost man. He squeezed the trigger twice and was rewarded with a spray of blood that stained the wall behind the man, the red vibrant against the boring grey concrete, and the man crumbled to his knees. Owen pulled the trigger thrice—pop, pop, pop . His MI6 training, as much as Curt was loath to admit it, made him a better marksman than Curt, and the leftmost man fell with a tight grouping of three bullets in his chest. The third man backed up, taking cover by ducking back down an adjacent hallway. 

 

Curt bolted forward. He rounded the corner quick enough to catch the hired hand off-guard and fired another two rounds. The bullets cracked through the air, thunder in his ear, joining the cacophonous shouting as the shots fired alerted more and more cronies to their whereabouts. 

 

As the final of their first three targets collapsed in a puddle of tangled limbs and blood slowly oozing from the two new holes in his chest, Curt took stock of the rest of the hallway. At the very end of it, nearly fifty feet away, a gaggle of goons, around fifteen in total, stopped short of whatever duties had previously occupied them and raised their weapons. 

 

It didn’t matter. Staring down fifteen barrels, hearing fifteen shots launch toward him, none of it mattered. In the middle of all those bodies, all those stupid, hired hands that Curt knew he and Owen could take down if they really tried, stood Luka, calm and collected as ever. He raised one eyebrow as he met Curt’s eyes. 

 

Luka had eyes like a snake. Luka had cold eyes. Luka had dead eyes. 

 

Curt couldn’t wait to help his body match his eyes. 

 

Something slammed Curt down another hallway for cover as the hail of bullets zinged toward him. Briefly, he recognized Owen, by touch alone, as his hands settled around Curt’s waist and pinned him to the floor in a flailing of limbs. 

 

“Focus, please,” Owen gritted out, springing back up to his feet. Curt hummed but allowed himself to be pulled to standing.

 

“I am focused,” Curt said with a smile. Owen laughed.

 

He peered around the corner and sent another bullet flying. In the heat of the moment, he looked darker, wilder. He looked feral and ferocious and free and so very, very perfect. Owen’s eyes looked the same as the air smelled—like something hot and powdery, like gun oil and copper.

 

“Focus on the fight, not me!” Owen called back as Curt poked his head around the corner to cover him so he could reload. 

 

Four bullets snapped. Four bodies dropped. Ten more pushed forward, quick and angry.

 

Luka watched on.

 

“Luka’s at the end of the hallway, letting his men do all the work,” Curt said, snarling. Owen joined him at the corner of the wall and reengaged in the firefight. 

 

“These chucklefucks will probably be a bit of an issue if they get to us,” he said, squeezing the trigger thrice over. The cronies rushing them scattered for cover but quickly regrouped. Curt really hated when the bad guys outnumbered them so severely. 

 

Owen kept shooting. Curt followed suit. They thinned the numbers down from ten to seven, from seven to five, and from five to three. When the remaining mercenaries rounded on them, bursting into the hallway that had been their temporary sanctuary, Owen sent one sprawling to the ground with a well-timed kick to the chest. Curt occupied the remaining two by slamming the barrel of his gun across the first one’s jaw. He caught the now-unconscious man’s body as it fell and used it as body armor as he fired off his last round over the man’s shoulder into the second man’s gut. He tossed the body of the first to the ground in time for Owen to fire off two bullets—one into the man he’d kicked and one into the unconscious one that Curt’d dropped.

 

“Luka,” Curt whispered, ignoring the carnage he’d helped create. He sprinted around the corner and down the hallway.

 

There, only just starting to scamper off like the coward he was, Luka disappeared around another corner. Curt silently prayed that the architect of this godforsaken building met a fiery, violent end. 

 

He and Owen sprinted after the man who’d made their lives a living hell these past few months. As they chased him, another crack of bullets shattered the air behind them. They both zigzagged instinctually, but Owen skidded to a stop and turned to face the next round of attackers.

 

“Get Luka!” He shouted over his shoulder. 

 

Curt hesitated, glancing back at the spill of hired guns flooding into the long hallway. 

 

“I won’t leave you!”

 

“He cannot get away again, Curt,” Owen shouted over the noise. “I’ll be fine! Go! End this!”

 

So Curt turned and ran. He ran after Luka like a fox after a rabbit, unrelenting and focused. He ignored the gunshots in the distance and the way his heart jumped at every sound as his brain whispered, what if that one struck true? What if you left Owen behind to die?

 

Then, he heard Owen laugh.

 

He redoubled his effort and sprinted on his toes. Owen could handle himself. 

 

Luka rounded one final corner. Curt raced after him. As Curt turned the corner, Luka’s eyes met his. He was standing still in the center of this large empty room with a cold, dead smile that didn’t reach his cold, dead eyes. He had a pistol pointed at Curt’s head. Before he could even stop or switch his momentum, his body carried him forward to a stumbling halt. 

 

Luka’s smile widened. He pulled the trigger.

Chapter Text

Curt knew that he had broken countless of Cynthia’s rules. 

 

She had fifty of the damned things, so, really, it was her fault for having so many for him to break. Who had time to learn the difference between rules twelve and fifteen or the contradiction between rules three and thirty-eight? What did it matter if he drank a little champagne at a gala he was meant to be infiltration (thus breaking both rules eight and eighteen in one go) if it meant he better blended in with the crowd and was able to do his job more sufficiently (thus allowing him to actually get his shit done). 

 

He didn’t blame her though—not for having her rules, at least, and especially not for his disregard for them.

 

Over the years, he’d gathered bruises, scrapes, and scars that spelled out all the times he learned the hard way just why Cynthia forced her rulebook down every agent’s throat. Some rules came about to guarantee that they did their jobs. Others were to ensure that no one did anything egregiously idiotic.

 

Mostly, though, her rules existed to keep her agents out of harm's way. 

 

It was ironic, really, that he would be thinking about those stupid rules here, at the last moment of his life, when Cynthia, the A.S.S., and his training felt so far away. As the bullet tore toward him, the only thing he could think of was every rule he’d broken, every rule he’d cast aside as quickly as if it meant nothing, every rule he refused to follow because of Owen.

 

All fifty of Cynthia’s rules he’d shattered because being in harm’s way was better than losing Owen. Maybe he’d have lived longer if he’d listened to Cynthia. 

 

He didn’t care. As the bullet tore toward him, he bared his teeth and snarled.

 

A nagging voice that sounded far too close to Barb’s voice to be comfortable rang out in his mind with a shrill shriek, rule two! rule two! rule two!

 

He heard Cynthia’s voice join Barb’s with a sharp, do whatever it takes to survive, Mega!

 

Still, he stood, frozen, as he stared down death and this snake-eyed grim reaper. The split second felt like an eternity.

 

A smaller, softer voice, not quite Owen’s but certainly close, whispered in his ear, not for you, for him! survive for him!

 

Curt dove out of the way at the very last moment. The bullet clipped his ear, drawing blood and stinging like a bitch but not deep enough to warrant any concern. He fumbled his gun as he tucked and rolled, coming up in a kneeling position. 

 

It didn't matter.

 

Luka caught him in the chest with a well-aimed kick to the ribs. Curt’s lungs spasmed, and he coughed. He dropped to all fours, but Luka grabbed him by his hair and ripped his head back.

 

“Agent Curt Mega,” Luka said in that drawling, not-quite-Russian accent of his. “You have been quite the thorn in my side.” 

 

He punctuated the sentence by yanking Curt’s head down as he slammed his knee up, catching Curt in the face. A wet crunch of bone, the precursor to a flood of warm blood exploding out from his (probably broken) nose, sent a shiver down Curt’s spine. He could taste blood on his lips and across his teeth, but he didn’t know if it was from his nose alone or if he’d split his lip, too. 

 

“You started it,” Curt rasped, catching the neck kick aimed at his stomach and launching himself at Luka. They tumbled to the ground and rolled back and forth, each struggling to dominate in this adrenaline fueled wrestling match.

 

“So petulant, always so petulant,” Luka huffed between labored breaths. He rolled over Curt and settled atop him with his knees squeezing tight against the ribs he’d only moments previous been battering. “This must be why that director of yours seems so tired of you all the time.”

 

He leveled his fists at Curt’s face and swung twice. Curt dodged the first and caught the second in his palm.

 

“Jokes on you,” Curt spat, “petulant is just part of my charm.”

 

With a move he’d learned specifically because he wanted to someday impress Owen in bed, Curt dropped one knee, hooked the other around Luka’s torso, and shoved. By the look on Luka’s face, he caught him off guard as he slammed Luka into the ground beneath him with a grunt. Now, with Luka pinned beneath him, he thought of every injury Luka had inflicted upon Owen, every broken bone and burn and brutal beating, he thought of the people Luka had killed at the gala and the way he’d smiled when he’d aimed his gun at Curt and pulled the trigger.

 

He let the anger burn through him. He let himself break rule number one. He let himself get personal. 

 

He unleashed a barrage of blows, lashed out again and again with a flurry of fists that shattered against Luka’s face and hands as he raised his arms in a defensive position. He struck him, over and over and over and over and over , until his knuckles bled.

 

But Cynthia’s rules existed for a reason. 

 

His anger made him blind. Luka found a weak point in Curt’s stance as he left his training to the wayside in favor of pure, unbridled rage. He pulled his knees and slammed his feet against Curt’s chest, knocking the wind from his lungs and sending him flying back.

 

Luka scrambled to his feet with a laugh like nails down a chalkboard. As Luka loomed over him, Curt fought to catch his breath. Curt glanced up, heavily.

 

Three voices in his head pleaded with him, survive, Mega! survive!

 

Come home to me, said his brain in his mother’s voice.

 

Come home to me, said his brain in Owen’s accent.



Survive! Survive! Survive!

Chapter Text

Curt jumped up and launched himself at Luka. At some point whilst he’d been knocked prone, Luka had regained his pistol and lifted his arm to aim a second shot at his head. Curt dove out of the way as quickly as he could. By rights, he should not have been able to scamper out of the way, but Luka proved a worse marksman than anticipated. The bullet zinged to Curt’s right, narrowly missing his ear and leaving behind a trail of heat that seared Curt’s skin like a secondhand burn. 

 

With his momentum carrying him further than anticipated, Curt hit the ground— hard —and rolled. He sprung back up to his feet and threw himself forward, directly into Luka. The gun went off a third time as Curt bodily slammed him backward. Thankfully, aside from a ringing in his ears, the bullet, once again, left him uninjured as it smashed into the floor by his feet. 

 

For a long moment, they wrestled, vying for the gun in Luka’s hand even as Curt’s own weapon was smacked from his hand and skidded across the ground before coming to a stop well out of reach. Curt kept one hand around Luka’s wrist, the wrist attached to the hand holding his weapon. Their fight was not majestic. It was not adventurous or climactic or something you’d see in a film, with skillful moves crashing against one another as they both fought admirably.

 

Their fight was something feral, something scrappy and messy and filled with palpable rage. Curt shoved and punched and scratched and kneed, just as Luka did. They collided against one another over and over again, sending blood splattering across the floor and crunching bone beneath their fists. Curt fought like a drowned man struggled against the sea. Luka fought like a burning man battled against the flames. 

 

They fought like hell because they both knew neither one of them could let the other walk away.

 

“Curt!” Owen shouted from somewhere behind him. Curt blinked, and, at the moment that his mind snapped to Owen and the very real threat of Luka turning the gun on him, hesitated. Using Curt’s minute pause to his advantage, Luka twisted and broke Curt’s grip on his wrist. Spinning around, he snagged Curt with an arm around his throat and pulled him into a headlock. The searing heat of a freshly fired gun barrel pressed against his temple, and Curt cried out involuntarily as his skin scalded but froze for fear of a bullet being sent straight into his skull.

 

“Don’t come any closer,” Luka drawled, out of breath but with as cold a voice as ever. 

 

In this new position that his grip forced Curt to stand at, Curt could see Owen skidding to a stop a few feet away. No one ran from behind him, which implied that Owen had done a marvelous job of fending off any nearby cronies. Curt wished that he could say the same about his success rate. Luka snarled in Curt’s ear, “or I’ll shoot him right here.”

 

Owen stilled, his gun still raised as his eyes narrowed. Curt could practically see the gears turning in his head as he searched for an opening, but none existed. Curt was wider than Luka in stature, even if Luka stood a few inches taller, so he blocked all view of him. 

 

“If you know us so well, then you’ll know that Owen’s a master marksman,” Curt hissed, pulling at Luka’s arm around his throat in a desperate attempt to stop him from cutting off his airflow. Owen’s lips twitched, a barely-there smile appearing and vanishing in the blink of an eye. He could see in Owen’s face that he knew that Curt was bluffing, trying to buy time. 

 

“He wouldn’t dare with you so close, my dear,” Luka said, and his lips ghosted against Curt’s ear. Curt jerked his face away, but Luka held tight. 

 

An idea struck Curt like a bullet in the side. He snapped his eyes back to Owen’s and blinked rapidly, trying to refocus his attention on him instead of on Luka. Owen’s brow raised but he made no comment. He bared his teeth and flexed his jaw, but he remained silent as Curt gave him a small wink.

 

“You know why no one ever lets me drive?” Curt asked, suddenly, holding his body very still. He heard Luka scoff, and the barrel of his handgun pressed deeper into Curt’s temple. The pressure of it ached and the hot metal burned his skin so profoundly that Curt could smell his singing hair, but he fought to remain rigid and unmoving.

 

Luka shook his head. “What?”

 

“It’s true, his boss even made a rule about it,” Owen chimed in, marking the first thing he’d said yet to Luka. Curt couldn’t see that rat bastard’s face, but he knew how interested he would be that Owen was finally speaking. Owen didn’t quite understand Curt’s plan, not if his curious expression gave any indication, but Curt trusted he’d get it. Hopefully, though, he’d catch on before Luka did.

 

“It’s true, she did, so let me ask again,” Curt gritted out. “Do you know why no one ever lets me drive?”

 

“Why?” Luka asked, and a breathy laugh huffed from his lips.

 

“Because I have a tendency to pull left.” 

 

“What are you—”

 

Curt jerked away, pulling himself to the left and exposing Luka’s side. The angle was shit, the window was tight. 

 

But Owen was damn good. The bullet struck true.

 

Luka fell to the ground, gasping. His rasping breaths came in short and sounded hollow at first before blood began bubbling up in his throat and turned the noise into something guttural and gurgling. Curt circled his body and stared down at him. Owen stayed a few paces back, breathing hard.

 

And Luka had the audacity to laugh.