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Sleeping Somewhere Cold

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"You told me about the woman," Nile said, a few days into living in France with Andy, Booker, and Joe, "But I also have been getting short flashes of a man."

"That's Joe's Dream Knight," Booker said with a smirk.

Nile prays that this story isn't another horror story like Quynh's, and Booker's teasing gives her hope.

Taking a seat at the breakfast table with a mug of coffee, Andy cut in. "There are six of us who can't die: us, the Knight, and Quynh."

"Why is this guy 'Joe's Knight?' Who is he?"

Andy shrugged. "Don't know. I started seeing him in my dreams around the same time Joe popped up. None of us have ever met him."

"But Joe really wants to," Booker said with a smirk. "Got a whole library of sketchbooks filled with drawings of the Crusader Knight." Joe looked only a little bit embarrassed.

"Why haven't you found him?" Nile asked.

"All we've ever seen is that room and sometimes other people. Not much to go on." Booker added with a wince, "They do horrible things to him and he is just used to it."

"Shit. That's... sick. He can't die and has been there for hundreds of years? That's the most awful thing I can imagine... except for what happened to Quynh."

"We'll take care of you," Booker promised, though Nile found very little comfort in promises that obviously couldn't be kept.

Nicolò didn't dream much anymore. He remembered them: the exotic black-haired, almond-eyed woman, the other woman with the magnificent axe. The bearded man who haunted him the most because, once upon a time, Nicolò was certain that he had killed that man with his own sword.

But the ghosts rarely haunted him anymore. He rarely dreamed. He killed the bearded man, died soon after, then woke up again on the battlefield some time later. The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John had found him and Nicolo's life had never been his own since.

He was a curiosity, first, for a very brief time, before he was labelled a demon. Nicolò was kept in locked rooms then, later, in chains as his custody was given to the Knights Templar. They found his praying and devotion to God abhorrent, called him a heretic, and kept killing him over and over between the experiments and exorcisms. There were no dreams unless he slept, and Nicolò was most useful awake and screaming until death and healing gave him short respites from the torture.

During his first life, Nicolò had been ignorant of the number of sadists within the Church or their fanaticism in learning every nuance about pain and inventing every conceivable method of torture and execution. The Church found no answers to his condition, but perfected many tortures that they decided would be useful on other heretics. In his cell, Nicolò had no perception of the outside world. The only proof of the existence of time were the visits of more men with varieties of strange accents and languages and even stranger garments.

He was moved occasionally: killed only to wake up in a wood coffin until he suffocated again and again. The dreams would only return as he slipped into unconsciousness before those deaths in the claustrophobic darkness. The apparitions of the two women and the man he had killed still visited, and eventually they were joined by a blond man. Their world was beautiful and full of color. The Muslim man had a gentle side and Nicolò saw him in the company of a cat, once, his demeanor kind and quietly joyful. (Nicolò had forgotten any animals existed besides the vicious dogs he had become very familiar with for a blessedly short time.)

Beyond his limited sphere of pain, humankind was advancing. There were books not written by human hands and tools of more intricate craftsmanship. Blades that were smooth and shiny that reflected portions of Nicolò's own bearded, tormented image. Nicely-scented people in clean clothes with perfect teeth. Boxes that had lights and made noise as these educated, immaculate, and cruel men tortured and vivisected him in new ways with more callousness and precision.

The flexible tubes that connected bags of fluid to Nicolò's arm had been removed and not replaced, for once. He was still strapped to the platform as usual, but his head was able to clear. He was cautiously hopeful that there wouldn't be drugs long enough for him to sleep and have a rare dream.

Someone entered. The young man, the prideful boy-king with the curly hair and smug smirk.

"We will have company," the boy said in an entitled voice that contrasted with his badly accented Italian. Nicolò didn't know what he meant by that last word. If it was just more doctors, then this respite from oblivion would have been unnecessary. This meant something new, which was bad. Was he being sold off to another organization and moved again?

"You will be polite and welcoming. Make a good impression. Tell them how nicely I treat you."

Nicolò held his tongue. He had pleaded when he was first brought here, when this boy's father had been the one to sneer at him. He had refused to give them anything but his screams for years.

The curly-haired child looked him over critically then muttered something before leaving. Not too long after one of the servants to the doctors came and took comb and scissors to Nicolò's hair and beard. He shook so hard that the servant stuck one of those metal and glass instruments into his arm.

This drug did give him the relief of sleep but his dreams were not their usual bright escape.

The men stormed their haven in the middle of the night. The women were outside and Joe and Booker were taken out quickly with a grenade.

Joe was relieved to wake up alone in a truck. Well, alone except for half a dozen of the paramilitary goons, but Andy, Nile, nor Booker were tied up with him. He kept his mouth shut and wondered why Booker wasn't also in the truck. If he had been equally as injured or killed by the same grenade that took down Joe, why wasn't he here? If Booker had fought them off, then why had he allowed Joe to be taken? It must be part of a strategy. His team must be planning on tracking him to the attackers' central location. All Joe had to do was hang on and collect all the intel he could so that they could burn this organization and any knowledge they had about them to the ground during his rescue.

The reason for his capture was made clear, and by the time Joe was dragged into a modern building of steel and glass he knew the name of who had ordered the attack. Merrick. The man himself was there to welcome him, give his bullshit speech about altruism, and then stabbed Joe a few times. Joe was exhausted and would have rather been tossed into a cell to sleep.

"We've set up space next to the other one," Merrick finally said, the casual words making Joe's heart stutter in fear. Had Booker been transported in another vehicle?

It wasn't Booker tied down on another gurney. It was no one Joe immediately recognized. A man, bony, pale, and listless. Joe struggled against the goons but they stripped off his boots and shirt and strapped him onto a matching platform. Once the muscles' job was done, the medicos swooped in with syringes and scalpels. There was a woman who seemed to be in charge.

"You can help save many people," she said, trying to sell Joe on her justification for unethical human experimentation.

"How many people has he saved?" Joe said, indicating the other man with his chin. "He looks like he has been here a while."

The woman just firmed her chin in stubbornness. "With two of you our research should improve significantly. When we get the others, I estimate our research will grow at an exponential rate."

"You can delude yourself that torturing us will 'save lives' all you want. Even if it did, though, that little man will only sell it to the rich assholes who will pay him the most. What will the old white patriarchs do with their immortality, hmm? Make this a fairer world for everyone? Of course, I shouldn't expect a scientist who uses a microscope to actually consider the big picture." He felt a surge of satisfaction as he saw her confident veneer waver, but then she turned away and started barking orders at her minions.

Unmolested for the moment, Joe turned his head to where the other man was. "What's your name, friend?"

Slowly the man seemed to understand that Joe was addressing him. His eyes blinked open with an effort and then he rolled his head to look at Joe.

Joe recognized those eyes. He had to stifle all of his reactions of shock and recognition. The less these scientists knew about them, the better. If they had an idea that they had some sort of mental connection that, too, would be a tempting puzzle for their probing tools and minds to try to solve.

This man was the Knight. Joe racked his brain for a language other than English that they might share. "Nomen est Joe," he tried, his Latin long unused.

That statement did earn him a brief flash of interest in those otherwise dull eyes before the man seemed to shut back down into sleep.

A mine shaft was not a place that Nile would have ever expected to be, let alone try to get a good night's sleep in. She must have dozed off, though, because she was suddenly sitting up and meeting both Andy and Booker's eyes.

"Joe," Andy said, rolling to her feet as if the short vision had invigorated her.

Booker rubbed his face and then squinted in a disbelieving manner. "And his dream knight?"

"The stakes just got higher," Andy said. "Who knows where they are or what the people who have them are trying to do."

"They have the Crusader," Booker mumbled. "They could have had him for a long time. Wouldn't they have found out some answers?" He caught Nile and Andy both looking at him. "I mean, they took a lot of trouble to try to get us when they already had one immortal. What are they trying to learn or get from us?"

"I'm a lot more interested in who," Andy said flatly. "I got some flashes of other people. Lab coats. A loud man."

Nile switched her gaze between them. "Neither of you are on Facebook? Or Twitter? That was the asshole Merrick. As in, the guy who runs the fucking giant pharma empire of the same name. Really, neither of you?"

They were never left alone. The scientists worked round the clock in shifts, and there was always one armed security person in the room. The Knight never said a word and Joe didn't know how much English he had even picked up; certainly the people around never directly addressed him.

Joe wasn't going to let himself be ignored, though. He wanted to gain information and remind all these people that he was a person.

There was a tall red-headed man who still drew blood with habitual gentleness. He was young and not hardened like most of the others. Joe gave him the most dazzling smile he could under the circumstances. "My name is Joe. What's yours?"

The man's eyes darted around. "...Andrew," he said quietly.

"What's your goal while working here? Why are you in the medical research business?"

"I study blood."

"Don't talk to the subject," the guard said, making Andrew flinch.

"Geez!" Joe said loudly, rolling his eyes. "I'm hardly fishing for personal information. Can't a medical experiment be curious about how he is supposed to improve the world?" Andrew still had five vials ready to fill. "So. Blood. I don't know a lot, obviously, but do you have a specialty? Leukemia, Sickle Cell... I'm sure there are a number of others. What is Sickle Cell, anyways, Doc?" Andrew looked tempted to answer but a glance at the goon's face made him bite his tongue.

Joe wanted to be obnoxious. He turned his head to where the Knight seemed to be snoozing. "Hey," he said to the guard. "What's the deal with him?" When the guard didn't respond, Joe huffed loudly. "I don't suppose there's a footy match on? Never can turn down a chance to boo at the Blues, racist shites. Can't you guys afford a TV in here? There was one in the plane, you know," he shared with Andrew. "I don't suppose you have a plane with a TV in it, Andrew. Really," Joe said, shaking his head and playing up the old-timer awe because some sort of angle had to intrigue the guard about him if the man couldn't be stirred up by sports talk. Maybe the goon was an unlikely (very unlikely) history nerd. "A TV in an aeroplane! I remember when they were made of wood and canvas, you know? Saw them for the first time in Tripoli, during the war when Italy attacked the Turks. I wanted to steal one and try to fly it but my buddy was all like, 'We don't have time for that, Joe!' He really needs to loosen up and just have fun, you know? But I suppose we were busy. Hey," he said to the Knight, "Were you around during the Ottoman Empire?" When he got no response he turned back to Andrew. "They did a lot of science and medicine. I think they invented the catheter. Is that true, Andrew? Don't know from personal experience, think it was some trivia I read in a pub. Useful, I suppose, but who first had the idea and who was the poor guy who they tested the prototypes on?"

He was winning Andrew over. Joe could tell by the way the guy's lips twitched. The guard was holding strong, but wasn't trying to shut him up. Unfortunately the knight wasn't responding much. Maybe there was a bit more life in his eyes, but there was still no animation in his face.

Nile hung back with Andy as she wiped down the first stolen car while Booker found a new one to take to London. "Something seems off about him."

"He's just like that. If you're worried about the drinking, you don't need to be. He's still good to drive."

"No, that's not... okay, well that actually is worrying but it's not what I was talking about."

Andy straightened her back and met her eyes. "What is it?"

Nile hesitated. "It could be nothing. We all had that dream, right? We were both focused on Joe and what they were doing to him, but Booker was more confused that they had that other guy, the Knight. Why wouldn't his main concern be that his friend was being sliced up in a medical lab? He never even seemed fazed about that part. Like he had been expecting it. I would have guessed enhanced interrogation or to see Joe simply locked in a cell, so the medical thing totally threw me off."

"Hmm," Andy said, thoughtfully. When Nile's attention was drawn to Booker's footsteps crunching back toward them through the trees, Andy slid a magazine into a Heckler & Koch and stepped around the car to aim it at him with a clear line of sight.

Book just raised his hands, his uncorked flask still in one hand, looking more tired than surprised or angry.

Nile supposed that pointing a loaded firearm at one of your best friends on a near-stranger's hunch was less of a big deal when he would just wake up from a bullet to the head.

"Nile has an interesting theory," Andy said.

The Muslim man talked and talked. It was such a new thing for Nicolò. Even though most of the words were foreign, the man- Joe- also brought a breath of life and energy into Nicolò's world. His own mind was working better without the constant drugs, but he had no reason to give anything away to his tormentors and found it was easy to simply lie there with his eyes shut most of the time. Everyone was mostly ignoring him anyway.

Until Merrick walked in. Nicolò cracked his eyes open to see the curly-haired stronzo sneer and talk at Joe with his usual condescension. When Joe made a head tilt toward Nicolò and made Merrick's eyes fall on him, Nicolò could only open his eyes and wait for whatever was going to happen to happen.

"Your friend wants to know what you're called and how long you've been here," the boy said to him.

"Italian!" Joe said, lighting up. "I wondered what language you spoke!" His Italian was much more fluent and even had some familiarity in some of the tonal subtleties.

Merrick frowned, not liking Joe's easy fluency. "He never gave us a name," he said to Joe, and Nicolò tried not to flinch as the young man walked over. "We have had him for many years. He used to talk to my father but has not said anything except scream to me." Merrick's hand was soft on Nicolò's cheek and he hated it.

He looked at Joe hoping the other man would be able to help him somehow, but the man just looked mildly curious. "Do you rape him as well as torture him?"

"He is not that pretty," Merrick said, like it was a funny joke.

"I disagree," Joe said, finally looking at Nicolò with something more meaningful in his gaze. Nicolò, however, was unable to interpret whatever it meant. "I would swear that I have seen his lovely face often in my dreams for centuries."

Nicolò had no trouble picking up on the meaning of that. It filled him with a rush of warmth and gratitude. All this time he had longed for the rare glimpses of this man and the others, and they may have been dreaming of him, too. Hope suddenly seemed to infuse Nicolò's bleak world with an inrush of color, though Joe's black hair and eyes and brown skin stood out the most in the white room.

Merrick laughed in a harsh and belittling way. "The new lab rat sees the lab mouse and becomes a poet!"

"Poetry is life and all life is poetry," Joe said with as much of a shrug he could give in his restraints and seeming to end the conversation. Merrick talked to his staff and then left, while Nicolò lay there and mused on the last thing Joe had said. La poesia è vita e tutta la vita è poesia. He had forgotten there was poetry and beauty to be found in words and sounds.

The next day Nicolò watched as Joe was killed for the first time in front of his very eyes. They poked him with one of their needles and put something into him while Joe just smiled and joked and Nicolò had to restrain a shaky feeling inside of his chest.

One of the boxes with the moving lights was somehow connected to Joe's heart, because everyone stared at it while the light slowed then evened out into a flat line. There was the blond doctor and the man from the East and a tiny girl with brown hair who didn't seem to have the nerves for this work. She looked like she was on the verge of being sick when she followed the doctor's orders and used a knife to open Joe's unmoving chest. Nicolò had to turn away when he saw them moving larger tools into position, but he still heard the horrible sound of the saw cutting through bone.

This was anger, Nicolò remembered. This was a snarling and vicious fear instead of a meek and toothless cowering. This was disgust and contempt and wrath, and he curled his hands and remembered how he had used them to hurt, once. Had loosed the capital vices he battled within himself to wield them as weapons under the Church's blessing.

The passions he had locked away were back, yet he could do nothing with them to save this bearded man of whom he had dreamed and thought to be a ghost. It was a new kind of agony to keep it all inside when Nicolò wanted to thrash and shout, but he grit his teeth and kept breathing and tried to bank the fires of emotions. They would be his weapons again, he promised. In the meantime, he would keep them sheathed until the occasion when they would be most effective and deadly.

The Church and the ensuing horrors done by thousands of hands since had taught Nicolò patience.

When Joe woke up he felt like there was something different. Something heavy hanging in the air like a thundercloud or the receding rush of seawater building up into a tsunami.

The Knight was lying still with his face turned away, and there was just a guard in the room.

"What did they take? I feel like it was maybe my stomach. Did they take my stomach out? I'm hungry," Joe laughed obnoxiously. "Get it? I'm hungry and my belly feels empty? They dissected me and took out my parts? Oh, c'mon, that is hilarious!" The guard just looked sterner but Joe also got the hint that he was a bit disgusted at the possiblly literal truth of that statement. This one might be sympathetic enough to work at.

"Friend," Joe called, in Italian. "When are they gonna feed us?"

"English," the goon ordered.

"But you don't even appreciate my jokes," Joe griped. "Maybe I can get a chuckle out of this guy, but he needs to be able to understand what I'm saying for him to enjoy my wit."

Their debate was interrupted by a creaking and crackling voice saying, in Italian, "They do not feed."

Joe whipped his head around to see that the other man was awake. His voice echoed the ancient exhaustion the man had exuded since Joe had first seen him. For a moment Joe thought he had found the source of the looming threat in the man's pale eyes, a new and dangerous clarity and determination, but he switched back into the disinterested and docile thing he had been before.

"No cibo?" Joe asked. "What does he mean no food?" He demanded of the guard, who was looking rather flustered.

The guy thumbed his walkie-talkie.

Andy was not taking Booker's confession well. And, really, Nile didn't blame her.

"Look, I can get why you spilled all of your pain to this Copley guy," Nile said after tapping and swiping through their email conversations. "But you knew he was fucking CIA. You knew he had other motivations!"

"It's one thing to get yourself into shitty situations, Book," Andy said. "But to betray your family like this! Joe's in a fucking laboratory, strapped down as sadists treat him as a puzzle of meat and bone, and you were happy enough to put us all in that situation!"

"I didn't think it would be like that," Booker muttered, keeping his head hanging low between his slumped shoulders as he sat sideways on the passenger's side back seat. Andy couldn't stay still, and paced in frustrated circles though the grass outside, gesturing sometimes with the pistol still in her right hand. Nile stood still, but had her arms crossed tightly over her chest.

"We need to get their location from Copley," Nile said. "Call him. On speaker." She held the phone out to him.

Booker took it and followed orders. "Do you know what they're doing to him?" Booker said the second Copley answered.

"...Yes. But I promise you this wasn't what I thought would happen."

Andy snorted. "A goddamn SWAT retrieval platoon?!" She said skeptically. "You're never doing anyone a favor if you need that many troops to get anyone to go anywhere!"

Copley's sigh is audible. "You three are a special circumstance."

"Did you know that Merrick already had one of us in his possession for decades already?" Booker asked. His body and voice had just been drained of energy and emotion since Andy had pointed her gun at him and he knew the gig was up.

"No, Booker, I swear I didn't. Not until I watched them take Joe into that lab. If I did, I wouldn't have trusted Merrick. Wouldn't have convinced you to do this."

"If you truly regret it, then you need to help up break them out," Andy said. "Where are you right now?"

"We don't need to feed you," the Eastern scientist was trying to convince Joe.

Joe just grinned a feral, threatening not-smile. "You just see my new friend here as a broken puppet. He speaks a dialect that has been dead for centuries. I promise you, it will take at least as much time to break me. I will outlast you and my stubbornness will drive you mad. My screams will haunt your dreams and my senses will pick out every niggling little uncertainty and secret embarrassment you carry with you, and I will make each a supporating wound with constant irritation at those flaws of yourself. I do not need a name to see your history- it is written in your body. The perverted lust for young girls, for example. You have not hidden that from me."

It was vindicating to see the man's face pale and his jaw drop in horror. It had been a guess based on the way the man's attention fell to his small, young co-worker, but it seemed to be a precise lightning-strike into the scientist's self-loathing. His eyes spun in their sockets as he avoided Joe's gaze and was too mortified to glance at the disgust on the guard's face. "I will try to find something," he mumbled, before fleeing.<

"What did you say?" Nicolò asked, lost at the meaning but intrigued by the power that Joe had spun with his voice.

"I told him that I know about his lust for children and that I wouldn't stop flaying him with my honest words until he gave us food."

"Did you call me a poppet?"

"Si. A broken one. And I know that it must have taken centuries for men to make you that way. But these mortals will not outlive my anger."

The guard snapped out an order meant to shut them up, but Nicolò could hear and see the cracks in his arrogance that Joe had made. It bolstered his hope.

Merrick himself appeared not too long after, Andrew pushing a wheeled cart along behind him and looking on the verge of being violently ill.

"I heard our newest guest was hungry." The CEO pressed his fingertips together and grinned in a way that made Joe's entire body go cold. "And our oldest guest opened his mouth to finally speak! After decades of wondering what sort of thoughts were echoing in that skull, it was quite a disappointment that all you had to share was 'They don't feed us.' You simply never asked.

"But you-," Merrick said, turning back to Joe. "I was able to scrounge something up for you. Since you're so hungry."

Joe really doesn't want what's under that cloche. He doesn't need any other information other than Andrew's queasy face. He tries to distract Merrick.

"Have you fired your blond doctor?"

Merrick knows Joe is stalling, but stays his hand out of curiosity. "Why would I do a thing like that?"

"How long has she been working on him?"

Merrick glances between Joe and the other immortal. "I don't know. Eight years? Something like that."

Joe raises his eyebrows. "And no successes? No breakthroughs? In all that time. Are you certain of her loyalty to you and your company?"

Merrick is intrigued despite himself. "Results take time."

With a snicker, Joe nods his head. "Right. Of course. So she has made no profits for you in eight years, huh? She seems too intense to keep her focus on a project that isn't yielding any results at all."

"Are you insinuating something? Do you think she is a fraud?" Joe knows he has Merrick on the hook. Andrew and the guard, too, look interested. Even his Knight friend is wrinkling his forehead trying to figure out what Joe is talking about.

"I believe she is a spy."

That is when his his audience starts to release their tension; smirk and roll their eyes that this fool just thought he would lie to derail something unpleasant. "She can't be a spy. Without removing any samples from this lab, she has nothing to take to any of my competitors. And no samples leave this lab. My security is thorough."

"You keep our friend here under camera surveillance 24/7?" Joe says. The men think this is just more fumbling on his part, but he is lining up his shot.

"Camera surveillance and a security guard."

Joe overheard a conversation earlier that alluded to the lab cameras being virtually useless when the windowless room's lights are off. He plays that card. "Do those cameras provide any real data when the room is dark? And the thing about human guards is, obviously, that they're human. Even if they are loyal and resist bribes, it is easy to casually offer one too much coffee and slip in here when he takes a break. Would you know what any intruder would be doing to him if the lights were off?"

Merrick's mind is working. Chewing on this realisation and trying to find flaws in the logic. "That doesn't solve the problem of getting samples out through security. And any tissue or blood specimens would need immediate treatment to keep them viable. She couldn't sneak in here, cut off a miniscule piece, and smuggle it out of the building without cell decay."

"Oh, good. Well, I'm happy to hear you are pleased with your security measures. I'm sure there's nothing you aren't letting slip between any cracks." Of course, Joe's sudden capitulation is suspicious. Even Andrew looks thoughtful and slightly alarmed.

Merrick ground his teeth together. "So you are done weaving lies?"

"No lies. I swear," Joe smiles at them sunnily. "You do know that I have had a lot of time to perfect my skills at infiltrating secure locations? When one lives long enough to see currencies collapse, one needs to learn how to acquire large amounts of money quickly. With no way to hide our lack of aging, we haven't been able to make diverse investments in the usual medium- or long-term markets."

The man is getting impatient. Joe doesn't need to keep winding him up longer. "I've done several museum, bank, and casino robberies. The technology has been difficult to keep up with the past fifty years or so, but sometimes tricks that old dogs know as the classics get overlooked by the young blood who think that gadgets are necessary to prevent everything."

"Get to the point," Merrick demands.

"Get me and my friend some generous portions of fresh bread and water, Mr. Merrick, then I will point out your security hole and you can set your hounds on that Mengele who has been stealing your 'proprietary information' and find the evidence of her crimes."

"I don't believe you," Merrick sneered.

"What does bread and water cost to the youngest, most successful genius in the pharmaceutical business? I'm not making unreasonable demands, just a counter to whatever cruel joke you planned to pass off as food," Joe said with more than a hint of snide mockery.

Merrick made a call to summon bread and water, a peeved and whining tone to his voice. Joe insisted the Knight got a few bites and sips before he cued up and nudged each snooker ball into a pocket. "Your blond scientist has been fucking our friend," Joe says, letting the words drop in a staccato for maximum impact. "Rape, really, of course, but she can put whatever drugs she wants into him without any questions. Does your security probe that thoroughly, Mr. Merrick? Semen can remain active for up to five days in a vagina."

Merrick's face went red and his eyes bulged out. He turned on his heel and snapped at the guard to follow as he left. Andrew was left holding the bread he had been feeding the Knight, standing still in shock.

Joe gave him a quick prompt. "I'm sure you can release one of that scrawny man's hands so he can feed himself!" Joe rolled his eyes and smirked as if Andrew was being particularly silly by wasting his time hand-feeding one prisoner. "I'm the only one in here that could be a threat, and I'm fucking starving, mate!"

The doctor frowned in thought and then undid the restraint keeping the Knight's skeletal right wrist to the gurney and set the loaf in his hand before picking up another roll and bottle of water and turning to Joe.

Nicolò wasn't sure what the bearded man had said that had made Merrick bring them food and then get angry, but his brain had bloomed into more life with a few sips of water and some real sustenance. Joe had brought color into the world, and now actual food was making Nicolò's body begin to work properly, like a rusted mechanism being plied with rasp and oil. When the red-haired man released his arm, Nicolò was almost too stunned to catch the quick wink Joe gave him from behind their enemy's turned back. As the blood-man moved to face Joe, Nicolò's eyes flicked around and caught on a scalpel: immaculate, deadly, and small. Sitting next to it was one of the glass cylinders with the needle and liquid they used to make Joe's heart stop. Nicolò was able to grab both from the lower shelf of the small wheeled table that held the rest of the bread and water and tucked them underneath his body.

"What did you do?" He asked Joe. Even his own voice sounded healthier and renewed.

Joe replied after swallowing a mouthful of water. "Told them how the lady doctor has been stealing your seed while you were unconscious to sell to Merrick's rivals."

"Ah," Nicolò said, digesting this information. He didn't really care whether it was true or not beyond the fact that it had earned them some advantages. "Why do they want any of that from me? Alchemy?"

Joe's laugh startled Andrew, who looked between the two prisoners and said, "I don't think you should be talking."

"Actually, Andrew, it is very sad," Joe said in English. "This man has been imprisoned since before the revolutions of science. He thinks you have been taking his blood and flesh all this time for alchemy or demonic magic."

The dismay on the scientist's face is comical. In his pride, he turned to Nicolò to say, "I am a hemotologist! I have been studying your blood hoping to use it to cure diseases!" The man he is trying to defend himself to obviously doesn't understand a word, and Andrew's head swiveled back to Joe.

"I'd rather eat than try to catch him up on hundreds of years' worth of knowledge," Joe said, but he made a token effort, telling Nicolò in Italian, "He is a student of how the body works and what the blood does. He thinks that he can learn why we are immortal to cure everyone else." Joe lets his skepticism show clearly in that second sentence and sees a glint of some emotion in the brief twist of the Knight's mouth.

"You can tell him that I have made contributions to his world of science." Finally given the strength and ability to talk with someone who wasn't actively keeping him captive, Nicolò gave some highlights of what the Church had learned from his torture. During his short monologue Andrew kept trying to decipher the emotions flashing across Joe's face.

When Nicolò finished and turned his attention back to his bread, Andrew pressed Joe. "What?"

The bearded man let his head drop back with a curse. "...He feels like he has given more than enough to science. Been flayed and vivisected and claims they invented methods of torture that were used in the Inquisition. Of course, he has no idea that there were inquisitions and that his suffering perfected practices that were used on countless other human beings, and I don't particularly want to tell him that." Joe was glad of the horror on Andrew's face and wanted to prod at that wound. "Your good intentions don't mean shit to him because it is just more of the same. You're just another sadistic torturer he will outlive."

Andrew's face was pale as he swallowed uncomfortably. "I... I'm not like that! You think I enjoy this?!"

Joe gave him a hard, pitiless look. "How long have you been working here, sticking needles into him, never even considering him as a person because he was too traumatized to say a word and too drugged up to open his eyes and look at you? He wasn't even a corpse to you because I bet you never even wondered about his name or where he came from; he never had a fucking history in your mind."

The doctor couldn't hide his shame. He just looked at the uneaten bread in his hands and let that truth sink in. "...What can I do to help?"

"Undo his restraints," Joe answered promptly. "All of them. And then mine. And then duck down into a corner as we exact our revenge and we may overlook you."

Andrew nodded and turned to drop the bread back onto the tray. Nicolò's eyes watched him as he undid the chest strap and then worked his way down the waist, thigh, and then ankle restraints.

"Don't kill him," Joe said in Italian. Then he smiled viciously and added, "...Yet."

Merrick could be heard yelling something down the hall and the tension in the room ratcheted up. Andrew came up on Nicolò's left to undo the last strap and met his eyes meekly. "I'm sorry," he said, to that pale stare that finally had the energy to glare at him with righteous hate. The second the captive started pulling his hand free Andrew scooted back and followed instructions, cowering in a corner, knowing that with Merrick approaching he would not have time to free Joe.

The CEO had a whole cadre of guards. Two entered the room, weapons in their hands, before Merrick swept in, and Joe and Nicolò could see another three or four in the hall. Nicolò kept still as everyone's eyes were on Joe. They practically ignored him by habit.

"Pretty clever lies," Merrick said to Joe coldly. He held out a hand to one of the guards and asked for a knife. When one was handed over Merrick approached Joe and leaned over him and held the blade to his throat. "But I don't think you should enjoy the privilege of being able to spew any more."

When a neck was slashed and blood suddenly sprayed, it was Merrick's. Nicolò had moved before he had even consciously remembered how to move, and was at Merrick's back with the scalpel and his arm dripping with red. He dropped Merrick's spasming body and turned to the security force.

"I give you pain and death," he said, his words chilling everyone's blood with their odd cadence and cold determination. The words were in English, and the shock of the immortal actually saying something along with his rather unsettling appearance made the guards hesitate a moment too long. Nicolò wasn't graceful or fluid or precise in his movements, but he was deadly. A number of rounds were fired into his body as he took down the four men but he remained upright and barely staggered.

"What's your name?" Joe asked after the last black-clad body fell to the ground.

The Crusader Knight he had seen in his dreams turned and met Joe's eyes. "Nicolò di Genova."

"Well met, Nicolò di Genova," Joe continued in Italian. "If you would free me then I have some others I would like to introduce you to."

The floors of the Merrick building that Copley's key card allowed them access to were silent and bloody.

"Looks like they don't need our help after all," Andy said when they encountered the first cluster of three dead men in black and a lifeless woman in a white coat.

Nonetheless, they progressed up the stairs and called out Joe's name on every storey. They finally received a reply all the way up in the penthouse and Joe rushed through a handful of rooms to greet Andy, Booker, and Nile with hugs.

"Well the cavalry came too late," Nile said, finally thumbing the safety of the pistol in her hand on and tucking it away.

"His name is Nicolò," Joe said, practically glowing. "Come on."

"Booker and I will watch the door," Nile told them, her hard look communicating to Andy that she wasn't leaving Booker alone to watch their backs. Andy nodded and let Joe tug her to a study where Nicolò was emptying the contents of a file cabinet's drawer into a box and muttering.

"I wonder if you will ever willingly be silent again," Joe teased. Nicolò's face turned up with a small crinkling of his eyes in lieu of an actual smile. "Meet Andy. Andromache the Scythian, meet Nicolò di Genova."

Andy let the rather haunted eyes roam over her before saying, "I regret how long it has taken for us to meet face to face, brother."

There's a flash of something dark and regretful in Nicolò's expression before he lets it cautiously relax. "Joe says that you dreamt of me more often than I dreamt of you. But every dream I had was an escape."

"The drugs," Joe spat out angrily. "And they kept on fucking killing you!"

"Peace," Nicolò said. "I want to find every parchment they have on me and leave. Finally live again."

"He may have a vendetta against the Roman Catholics," Joe said a bit apologetically in English as he scratched his head.

"We have to get him back into fighting condition and catch him up on how the world has changed before we plan any more revenge," Andy said in Italian, relived when Nicolò raised his gaze and gave a quick nod.

They were kind, these people from his dreams. Andy and Joe were easy enough to communicate with, and Booker's Italian was generally more understandable than Merrick's had been. Nile somehow learned phrases that were only meant to tease Nicolò and Joe and used them with a glee in her face and tone that confused Nicolò until the girl ran into the room one day and dropped a book into his lap before she raced outside.

Nicolò opened it and saw sketches on yellowed paper of a man and parts of a man, repeated over and over. When he heard a sound he looked up to see Joe duck his head and look away bashfully and he finally thought he understood.

There was a looking glass in the small room. Nicolò had to balance the book on the sink and compare the images.

"These are drawings of me?" He had to ask Joe, who had followed him and remained in the doorway. "Why?"

"I draw things other than you," Joe said defensively. "Other people and places. But I dreamt of you for nine hundred years, so there are... a lot of pictures if they are put in one place."

Nicolò looked from Joe to the book and then to the looking glass. "My nose is big. And my skin is pale," he said critically. "Was this how I looked at the beginning?"

"Same face," Joe said. "But we should cut your hair and shave your beard. You can spend some time in the sun and regain some color."

"Is there a razor?" Merrick's servant had trimmed his hair not too long ago, but Nicolò wanted more of it gone. It seemed men didn't wear their hair long here.

The object Joe showed him was nothing familiar, and Nicolò frowned and thought that Joe was making a fool of him. It didn't even have a blade, and made an alarming noise when Joe held it up. Nicolò backed away and Joe made the thing stop and swore.

"I'm sorry! Shit, I wasn't even thinking. Let me put it away."

"I do not want that," Nicolò said, trying to hold on to his temper and courage. Joe hadn't meant to threaten him, he was pretty sure, but that thing reminded him of other instruments that had been used on his body and he didn't like it.

Joe carefully pulled out another item from a drawer and held it up. "Scissors? We could go outside and I can trim your hair. Then we can find a real razor for you to use."

Nicolò hesitated, torn between fear and the desire to get rid of the beard and long hair that still, even after a shower, seemed to smell like the place he had been held prisoner. He finally nodded.

There was a stone wall not too far from the house and Joe instructed him to sit there. He talked about sports and Nicolò was almost distracted from the fact that he was letting the man so close to his skin. Some place names were familiar, and he was more interested in wondering over the fact that people from so far apart traveled to meet and play a game that sounded like it was meant for children- no matter that he had seen the cars and trains and flying machines that Andy had told him could cross the world in less than two days.

Booker and Andy returned in the car that he had sat in to arrive here. They pulled packages from the vehicle. Andy paused to scrutinize Nicolò. "Looking better," she said with a nod before she went inside.

As Joe kept working, moving his hands slowly and checking in often at Nicolò's face, Nicolò thought about the images and impressions he had received of this man in his dreams. He had seen him as a dirty heathen at the beginning of his immortality and had thought that it was a memory from a battle that his mind had fixated on for some reason. But as time and pain and too-brief deaths had passed, he had seen this man fight and laugh and ride and walk and protect the innocent and cry and had wondered why God would give him these visions and the weight of emotions that came with them. He had also dreamt of Andy and then Booker, but they were more inscrutable and distant; Nicolò had felt Joe's passions and doubts.

"What dreams did you have of me?" He asked. Joe's serious, sad eyes met his. "Painful ones. You were lonely and lost."

"I am sorry to have been the cause of unhappiness."

Joe's warm fingers touched his jaw. "No. You were in the hands of enemies and tortured. The three of us tried to put together clues: who had you, where you might be. In spirit you were always a part of us, and I never lost my belief that eventually we would find you. You are a man of constant faith, Nicolò; as you felt your God was with you every moment as His unknowable plan was unfolding, I knew that our paths would meet and lived every breath with the anticipation that you would join us."

Moved by Joe's words and sincerity, Nicolò had to cover his face. "You give me more credit for faith than I truly deserve. I have said things to God, turned away, repudiated Him. Hated those who said they were carrying out His Will on my flesh..."

"-But you always believed He was there," Joe said. He had set down the scissors and placed his hands on Nicolò's shoulders. "Isn't that faith?"

"I, I guess," Nicolò hesitantly admitted. Joe moved to pick up the scissors again and Nicolò caught his hand. When Joe gave him a questioning look he released it with a quiet "Scuzi. I don't know why I did that."

Joe gently took his hand. "Whatever you ask of me I would gladly give."

Nicolò grasped his hand and looked at him uncertainly then tugged him half a step forward and bowed his neck to rest his head on Joe's sternum. Joe cautiously set his free hand on Nicolò's back and began to move it in soothing circles. He could feel tears soak into his shirt, but Nicolò cried almost silently with small hitches of breath. When the man gave into his sobs, Joe crouched and pulled him fully into his body and embraced him with quiet words of comfort. Joe had imagined this: his Knight rescued and weeping out the poisonous feelings of fear and helplessness. Finally finding comfort in Joe's arms.

Joe settled on his knees and gently pulled Nicolò from the wall and into his lap. Joe was going to rehabilitate this man and watch him thresh through their enemies with astonishing confidence. His brother was going to be a knight again, guided onto the truly righteous path this time with the help of their family.

When Nicolò calmed he pulled away and wiped his face, unable to meet Joe's eyes. "Apologies," he mumbled.

"Never hesitate to come to me for whatever you need, Nicolò, and never apologize for what you feel," Joe chided. "After centuries of glimpsing your torment, I want to do whatever I can to ease your troubles. Being able to gaze upon your face while awake is all I ever hoped for."

Nicolò blushed. "You can weave pretty words," he said.

"None are as heartfelt as the ones I would cloak you in," Joe said. He decided to lighten his tone. "I have over 900 years of thoughts to share with you, and Andy and Booker have long since worn through their patience for them."

"And Nile?"

"New and lovely," Joe said, "But still a stranger. You have been a brother to my heart since our swords gave each other our first deaths."

Nicolò stood up. "You remember that? I could only recall killing you."

"I arose and left your still body behind. When you began to haunt our dreams Andy told me what it meant." Joe also stood and brushed dirt and snippings of Nicolò's hair from his trousers. "Let's go inside. Andy said she had things to discuss upon her return."

The information about Booker's duplicity would have enraged Joe in any other situation, but with Nicolò now in the same room Joe found it hard to sense anger through his relief and joy. Andy was sharp-eyed and quick-tongued and Nile metaphorically stepped back not feeling very personally wronged, and Joe found himself the center of attention of all five of them.

"I think I would be both sad and furious," he said, in Italian as most of the conversation had been for Nicolò's benefit. "But you were quick to change your mind when the true situation was revealed. And, besides that, you unwittingly led us to our long-lost Nicolò. You should shoulder the guilt of your intentions, but I see the hand of God in this. Destiny." Joe luxuriated in being able to simply turn to Nicolò and see his face and he smiled. "I find myself unable to begrudge you much in the existence of such a gift."

Andy and Nile exchanged grimaces and even Booker rolled his eyes. "Your romanticism is even more excruciating in Italian," Andy said in English.

Joe smiled with cloying sweetness at her. "You have not yet experienced the depths of my romanticism."

"...I'm sure Nicolò will truly experience the depths of it," Nile jibed back, earning snickers from everyone who understood her words. Even Nicolò intuited that he and Joe were the butt of her joke by her tone, and he looked to Joe to share a smile.

Joe's heart flew. He and his knight were finally reunited.