p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen's eyes shot open, like an elastic band that had been held taught for weeks and then finally released. Curt had never seen him so panicked. Owen pointed the gun that had been placed in his hands at Hidgens, but he couldn't pull the trigger – his face fell./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Curt!" he exclaimed. "You've got to run! You've got to get away from me!"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt jumped backwards and then scrunched his face up in confusion. "What do you mean? Surely it's Hidgens I've got to run away from?"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""No! Well, yes, him too. Look, it's hard to explain. But you've got to trust me."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Ok… I trust you. But what do I have to trust you emabout/em?"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""That you can't trust me!"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""What? emThat's just confusing!/em"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Hidgens smirked, and turned to Barb, giving her a knowing look. Barb scowled, halfway between returning the look and punching him./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Okay, boys, boys, settle down."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"The agents fell silent and Owen sneered. "I have nothing to say to you," he growled. He pointed his finger coldly. "This man has done things…" he faltered, "this man has done things even you two wouldn't believe… But I can promise you one thing: by the end of today, you will emboth/em want to kill him."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Oh, come on, Owen – enough with the theatrics… as much as I'm a fan. Tell them who I emam/em." Hidgens grinned./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen sighed, glancing at Curt for support. "He's the reason I joined Chimera. And the reason I left."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Hey, I thought I was the reason you left!" Curt pouted./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""I'm getting to that!" Owen rolled his eyes. "Boyfriends – so impatient." He straightened up (ignoring the appearance of Curt's cheek dimple at the word 'boyfriend') and looked Hidgens dead in the eyes. "In short, Henry Hidgens is the leader of Chimera. And he has a lot of explaining to do."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt's mouth fell open and Barb's eyes widened as though she had just seen a ghost. Hidgens clapped his hands in excitement. "Their faces! So exciting!"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"But Barb wasn't finding this exciting. There was a moment of pause, as Barb clenched her teeth, and her nostrils flared. And then she put her head down and charged at Hidgens./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Arrgghhh!" she screamed, punching him (feebly) in the stomach. "I," empunch/em, "trusted," empunch/em, "you!"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Hidgens looked down, unfazed, as Barb kept punching. He smiled pityingly, "And so you emshould/em... After all, we are family."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"That stopped her dead in her tracks. Curt looked on in amazement and Owen looked at the ground./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""What do you… what does that mean?" she stammered. "We're not family. How are we family?"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Hidgens sighed, nodding slowly. "You know that anonymous person who recommended you for the Academy?"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Barb nodded, for once in her life, not understanding at all./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""That was me!" He waved his hand. "Hello!" He bit his lip. "See, after what happened to your mother and… well, the whole town actually, I knew they would never let me raise you. So I came up with a plan – to be your tutor! I got to be the father I always wanted to be, and you didn't even know!"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Barb put her hand over her mouth, unable to produce any words./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen gritted his teeth, clenching the gun in his hand. "I'm afraid it doesn't end there," he gulped. "Actually, that's kind of the nice bit."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Barb spun around to face him, eyes wide. "You knew. This whole time?"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen nodded morbidly. "I'm sorry, I didn't know how to tell you. Besides… I was a little busy, dying." Owen glanced at the slightly quivering gun in his hand, as though looking at a watch. "Hidgens hasn't told you the whole truth," his voice shook as he glanced between Barb and Curt nervously. "Chimera has hurt so many people. And it's all because of him. Your mother was an agent too – fierce, but kind… Always so kind." Owen turned on Hidgens, snarling. "And he took advantage of that. As soon as he got what he wanted, he got rid of her. And anyone else who found out…" Owen looked into the distance melancholically. "Steve and Stu and Mark and Layton and…Chad."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""No, not Chad…" Curt gulped, his lip quivering. "I knew Chad."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen nodded morbidly. "When I found out, I tried to take over Chimera – that information was never worth all those lives. They were good people. And he murdered them. He killed them all, Barb. Your town. Your family." He paused. "I still have nothing against Chimera, I didn't want to betray them, but God knows I have something against that man," he spat./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen's blood boiled. Suddenly, his eyes burning with desperation, he raised the gun in his hands and pointed it directly at Hidgens' head. Clenching his jaw tightly, he fell to his knees, unable to pull the trigger. "Why are you doing this?" Owen sobbed, dropping the gun. He was the only one who knew what was coming./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt moved towards him quickly, offering support, but Owen screamed at him. "Don't! Don't come near me! Just run! Please…" his voice cracked, "please, just run…"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt's heart beat like a war-drum. He couldn't leave Owen like this./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen looked into Curt's misty eyes, and forced a smile. "What's it going to take for you to trust me again?" he whispered. "What's it going to take for you to truly believe that… I am in lo-?"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Hidgens hissed, slamming his hand onto the controller, and Owen's eyes dropped to the floor. Curt gasped, turning towards Hidgens./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""What did you do?" he exclaimed./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Hidgens smiled sadly. "I reminded him what it's like to be betrayed by Agent Curt Mega."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen jumped up and threw himself at Curt, his face contorted in concentrated rage. Something blazed behind his eyes as he grabbed Curt's hair and thrust him to the ground. Jumping on top of Curt, he pressed his hands into his neck: squeezing, choking. Managing to free an arm, Curt elbowed Owen's arm joint, and dove onto Owen's chest, holding him down./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""What are you doing?" he screeched./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen growled, wordlessly, and kneed him in the groin. Curt fell to the floor in intense agony as Owen pounced and managed to get one hard punch in, before someone else joined the fight. In a quick flash of blonde, Barb hurled herself at Owen, scratching at him like a feral cat. Owen shoved her hard and she skidded across the room on her back. Once again on top of Curt, Owen's fist made hard impact with his cheek./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; text-align: center;" align="center"***/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Mind clouded. Memories confused./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen's heavy brain fluttered. 'emWho even is Owen Carvour?' /emhe thought./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"His fist collided with Curt's cheek, and blood spurted from his mouth./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"The gun lying in the centre of the room watched with intense curiosity as each punch fell. It was so close. It would be so easy for Owen to just reach out…/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"The gun was in Owen's hand, the barrel now against Curt's head. He could pull the trigger. And then it would be all over./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"But he didn't want it to be over. Not yet./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Grinning sadistically, Owen smiled. "I want you to run," he whispered./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt's eyes widened in a million different types of terror. Owen liked that: his fear. With the barrel still pointed at Curt's head, Owen backed away./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"And Curt ran./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"span style="color: blue;" /span/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Through the lounge and the study, the ballroom and the music room, Owen chased him, until there was nowhere left to run. For Curt had made an error. A huge misjudgement: Curt hadn't realised that the stairs he now flew down led to a basement. And there was nowhere else to go. /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt stared into the dark room and then turned, slowly. He glanced up at Owen, who was half-way up the stairs, looking out-of-breath. Owen's gun pointed towards Curt's heart./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""So we're back here again, are we?" Curt smiled. "The two men on the stairs… destined to break each other in every way imaginable."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Déjà vu prickled across Owen's spine. He gritted his teeth, unable to understand why he was hesitating. The hazy parts of his mind raced with a million reasons why he should hate Curt. But the clear part confused him even more. He remembered a situation just like this, only in reverse. Curt had held a gun to emhis/em heart… So why hadn't he pulled the trigger?/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt sighed and bowed his head, waiting. Every second dragged on as the motion of Owen's mind became more and more like a fly in treacle. And then Curt's eyebrow twitched, and he looked up with a strange expression. "You're really considering it, aren't you?" he smiled, his voice quavering slightly./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen frowned, a realisation hiding from his consciousness like lost words on the tip of your tongue. Curt's words echoed his own, he was sure of it. But what did they emmean/em? If only he could remember why Curt hadn't killed him when the roles were reversed. If only he could emunderstand/em./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""How am I still alive?" Owen whispered, mostly to himself. "You shot me in the leg, why?" Curt paused and Owen stepped towards him, gun now only half a meter away. "I need to know why!"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""You know why!" Curt bellowed, and then, his voice faltering, "because… I…"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"A vein pulsed at Owen's temple, but Curt was sure that the blood pumping through it was boiling, not cold. This was false anger. "Owen, I don't know what's going on. I don't know what happened to you in there," he gestured towards the dance room, "butem it's not you/em." Curt stepped towards the gun, which didn't falter. It was now only inches away from his heart. "You have to fight, Owen… and not because you're a spy, or out of honour… you have to fight because… I don't care what the world says. We have something special. We have something special, and no mad scientist is going to take it away from us…" He pulled a face, adding, "Especially since it's Barb's dad… That's just embarrassing."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt's eyes locked with Owen's and for just a second he swore he had seen the faintest trace of recognition shimmer across them./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"And then Owen pulled the trigger./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; text-align: center;" align="center"***/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"uForty-Two Years Later (November, 2018):/u/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen woke with a start. Something had broken his deep sleep – a clatter in the living room, followed by heavy footsteps. He looked around at the empty bedroom and sighed./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Groaning at the ache of his bones, he heaved himself out of bed and down the stairs, heading towards the living room. His body felt heavier than the old days, but his mind had gained a sort of clarity that rested his once-wearied soul./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Now outside the living room door, Owen could hear someone fiddling with the TV, and thought for a second that it might be burglars. But the familiar buzz of the TV turning on set his mind at ease, and he stepped into the living room to join its other occupant./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""What are you doing up?" Owen smiled, pushing the grit from his eyes so he could see the other man more clearly./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"The man in the living room jumped and then exhaled slowly, shaking his head. Curt, after all this time, still hadn't got used to Owen's light-footedness./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""You need to stop jumping up on me like that!" he grinned. "You'll give me a heart attack – and we both know that's a genuine concern at our age…"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Oh, you're as fit as a horse," Owen laughed, sitting down next to him and glancing at the TV, which was telling a bizarre story about a emSinging and Dancing Pandemic. /em"But you didn't answer my question."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Couldn't sleep," he smiled sadly. "I've seen so much, I guess, the least I can expect is a couple of nightmares."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Curt, that just means you're a good man; a better man than me. I don't have nightmares, and I ought to."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Owen took his husband's hand, and traced his fingers across the lines. Each one represented an ailment they had suffered together – but they had gotten through it, and he wouldn't take back a single thing./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Owen, you are a good man," Curt smiled, and then his eyes twinkled. "Apart from that one time when you shot me – that wasn't very nice."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Oh, I shot you in the leg – don't be such a pussy."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""No one says pussy anymore—"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""—Do I look like I care?"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"There was a pause as the two men shook their heads and Curt tried to stifle a giggle. It had hurt like crazy, but it had been totally worth it – when Owen had shot him in the leg, he had broken the connection in his head. It had taken a few years, a bit of surgery and a lot of therapy, but eventually Owen had realigned his thoughts. And Curt had been there the whole time to support him./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt looked up at the TV and sighed./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""What has spying come to?" he shook his head. "I mean, a Singing Contagion. Absolutely ridiculous – what happened to real missions? …Guns and excitement…"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""Yeah, but you were emrubbish/em!" Owen cackled. "Do you remember when you helped fifty Russian spies across the border? Or that time you accidentally smuggled fifteen tons of cocaine?" Curt rolled his eyes and sighed, but that didn't stop Owen. "Oh, and I'll never forget the way you let the leader of Chimera escape when you were emliterally/em in his house – God knows what Hidgens is doing now."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt pulled a face. "Ok, it sounds kind of bad when you say it like that… But in fairness, I emdid/em take down Chimera… with a little help…"/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;""With a lot of help."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt pouted and Owen ruffled his (still superbly luscious) hair. "But none of that matters," he smiled. "You know that... You are perfect to me, Curt Mega."/p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;" /p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"Curt blushed and looked into Owen's twinkling eyes. He knew those eyes like he knew no others, and yet somehow, after all this time, Owen still managed to make his heart flutter./p
p class="MsoNormal" style="margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria;"He rested his head on Owen's shoulder and felt his worries melt away into nothing, because nothing else mattered: for as long as he was next to him, he would always be totally and completely untouchable./p