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"What the actual fuck, Curt?"

"That makes twenty-seven."

"Twenty-se… what?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Look, do you trust me or not?"

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

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

"Curt-"

"Questions later. Now turn right."

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Curt." he called.

"Yeah?"

"Now we're out of there…"

"Yes, and?"

"And I believe you have something to explain."

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

"Curt? You promised."

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

Owen wasn't sure why he did.

 

They sat in an empty room.

Two chairs, dusty from disuse, facing each other.

A third chair in the next room.

All three occupied.

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

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

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

"You remember the Russian affair, Owe?"

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

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

"What about it?"

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

What is time?

Well, that was about the last thing he expected.

"Uh…"

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

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

"Curt-"

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

"Curt… what the…"

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

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

"Okay-"

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

Owen made a zipping motion across his mouth.

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

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

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

He nodded at Curt to continue.

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

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

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

"Curt-"

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

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

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

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

A what now?

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

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

" What ?"

"And it doesn't end there."

"How can it get worse???"

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

"What is it?"

"Me."

"What?"

"You tortured me."

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

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

"How do you know?"

"You revealed yourself a few days later."

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

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

Owen didn't answer.

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

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

Owen was silent.

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

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

"Damon."

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

"Curt-"

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

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

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

He tapped his forehead twice.

Owen gulped.

If you join them, I'll go mad .