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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curt said nothing.

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

He never finished that sentence. Not out loud.

I can't fail you again.

I can't lose you.

I can't see you get hurt.

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

And he didn’t have time for pretend.

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

5:12am.

The wind wasn’t as chilly in Springwood.

5:14am.

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

5:15am.

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

5:20am.

It was so torturously slow.

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

5:23am.

No sign of anyone, but there was still time. 

5:26am.

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

5:27am.

Please show up .

5:28am.

Die. Die and leave us alone.

5:29am.

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

And what the fuck did they want?

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

 

5:29am.

 

Knock knock .

Someone knocked at the back window.

A gunshot. 

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

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

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

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

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

He was fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah.”

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

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

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

“Curt?”

“Hm?” 

“Is everything alright, love?”

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

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

“They’re trying to tire us out.”

“What?”

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

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

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

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

Curt thought it over for a moment. 

“Okay.”