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Owen had to admit that he'd never carved a tracker out of his own arm. That being said, he didn't find it any less impressive that the shy, horribly traumatized doctor had managed it. Neither did the other two, apparently, and especially Henri, if his French was any indication. His literal French. And the string of curses he graced his native language with. 

Damon reprimanded him immediately, but Curt left no time for an answer: “Damn!” he laughed, “Maybe this mission wasn’t as much of a failure as we thought.”

“Didn’t Carvour still shoot someone?”

“You’re on thin ice, Henry.”

“Still not my name.”

“Cry me a river and drown in it.”

Owen cleared his throat, successfully interrupting their bickering: “We need to plan this out. Maybe we were a bit too direct the first time. And I’m pretty sure they’re going to have even more security next time.”

“Cool, Owen.” grinned Curt, “Any ideas?”

 

They were still discussing strategy when Hope finally woke up.

The four men froze as she stirred in her chair with a tired little whimper and rubbed her eyes like a child. 

“Hey, you didn’t tie her up.” mumbled Henri, not too seriously, earning a patented Damon Glare and no attention whatsoever from Curt.

“Oh shit.” he murmured, “Hey, Owe, did she see me?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Okay, then everyone play along.”

Curt strolled to where the poor secretary sat, still rubbing the artificial sleep out of her eyes.

Owen, in all honesty, was not sure about his plans. Was it a good idea to base their whole work relationship with Hope on a lie? Probably not. Was he ready to tell her the truth about what had happened? Absolutely not. 

And so, inadvisably, Camille’s injury remained a secret amongst him and Curt.

Hope flinched a bit when she woke up to Curt’s face. She said nothing. Her eyes, though, were screaming to the heavens.

“Hi!” Curt waved awkwardly, “How, uh… how you feeling?”

Her voice was a bit raspy: “Where am I?”

“In a safer place than you were before.”

“That’s not vague.” she whispered, with an utterly terrified grin on her face, which Curt readily matched with one of his signature smiles.

“It’s okay.” Owen reassured, “It’s okay. We’re not going to hurt you, this is a… different story.”

“A different story from what ?” 

“That’s a legitimate question.”

“Shut up, Harriet.” snapped Curt, earning himself a truly venomous glare from the poor nurse, “I know this must be scary, but listen. Listen. Your name is Charity, right?”

“Hope.” everyone else corrected.

“Close enough. So, we’re putting together a team.”

Hope yawned softly.

"Careful, young lady. You will be tested at the end of this." joked Curt. 

She nodded slowly, dizzily, still fighting off of remnants of the chloroform Curt had dosed her with. Maybe a bit too much, Owen thought, glancing at her. Her clothes were not as loose as the first time they’d met, making it a lot more obvious how small she actually was. Her tight curls were pulled back in a braid, leaving her fragile-looking neck exposed. It didn't escape his notice how Damon had also seemed to lock on to that particular detail.

Her skin was immaculate, aside from the bandage on her arm. No discolouration or bruises to be seen on her neck, arms or legs. Damon was looking at her not in envy, but in evident relief.

Curt continued his explanation in the meantime. The more he went on, the more concerned Hope looked. Initially, she looked almost amused, as if she were starting to catch on to a prank. Then, her expression shifted. From amusement, to vague concern, to anxiety, to panic. Curt didn't seem to notice. Everyone else did.

There was a growing anxiety among the group, a sense of terrified anticipation of Hope's inevitable reaction.

It took less than Owen expected. 

"Wait!" she cried, interrupting Curt, "Wait, you mean-"

Her gaze ran to Henri, who nodded almost regretfully: "Yeah, I wasn't kidding when I told you to get out."

She went silent. 

"Oh, God." she murmured, "I'm so sorry, doctor Lee."

"It's fine." answered Damon, way too quickly. A rehearsed, tried and true response. Just one of many things about Chimera employees that rubbed Owen the wrong way.

Good God , he thought, these poor kids .

There were times, on missions and the like, when he happened to find people younger than himself, more naïve, less dangerous, not even remotely prepared for the shitstorm they had found themselves in. Owen knew very well that sometimes, people just got hurt. He knew that it wasn't his fault, technically. But that didn't mean he wouldn't feel guilty about it, because it's in the nature of any decent person to feel guilty for failure, rather than lack of effort, when someone gets hurt. And he liked to think he was a decent person.

Except, well.

He hadn't looked at Camille for too long, but she must've been about the same age as Hope. Could he have done better? Yes, probably.

Should he have? Absolutely.

He was not looking forward to the moment the truth about her resurfaced. He imagined those golden eyes again, this time without their spark. Glazed over and inexpressive. He imagined Hope's eyes, perhaps the warmest he'd ever seen, burn with icy anger.

It was an image branded into his mind, that he would be happy to never let his eyes witness.

There was a solution, of course, to all of his problems concerning the Chimera employees. A mythical solution, one might say.

"So!" Curt almost clapped his hands, but froze halfway after his wandering eyes landed on Damon, "We've got a squad here, and we're ready to fight, am I right? We've got Harry here…"

This time, he received no answer beyond an exasperated sigh.

"...who is a lot stronger than I gave him credit for and, judging by his form, probably took boxing lessons at some point."

"That is correct." whispered Damon.

"Then, we have Damien…"

"It's Damon."

"Close enough. Who is apparently good at chemistry, which is always useful. And uh…"

He kept his arm pointed at Hope, snapping his fingers repeatedly: "Wait, don't tell me. Grace? Chastity? Fortitude? Patience? Uh…"

"Now you're just listing the heavenly virtues." sighed Henri.

"Shut up, Harold. Was it… Hannah?"

"Hope." she thankfully corrected, ending the nightmare that was Curt's terrible memory for names before he could go through the entire baby names catalog.

"Yes, that, thank you." Curt gave her another one of his signature grins, before opening his arms to the small group before him: "Look at us! Two amazing spies. Two marginally talented people. One lovely secretary. We're a dream team, baby!"

Hope twisted her hands in concern.

"What do you mean?" she murmured.

Owen stepped forward: "We mean that this Chimera is about to get a mouthful of lead."