A/N: I can't believe I've finally finished this story. Writing has never taken me so long before. I am sorry for such long delays. I am very grateful to everyone who read this story and everyone who reviewed.
The story is going to be moved into the crossover section soon.
I still don't own these characters.
The weather reigning in London at the moment could be easily described as perfect for the time of the year. It was a quiet evening, calm and peaceful. It had already gotten dark, but it still wasn't too late, and tourists were still walking around, admiring the historic sights lit with colourful illumination.
A small open-air restaurant was still packed with clients, their lively chatter blending in with the noises of the night city. There, among the mix of all those sounds and colours, alone at his table, sat a blond man, staring absent-mindedly at his still untouched glass of wine.
Eight months. It was eight months since he had nearly died; eight months since that failed undercover operation; eight months since being tortured. It was seven and a half months since he had finally woken up in a hospital and had been conscious enough to remember what had been happening around him: tubes, needles and tons of medical equipment, lots of sickeningly nice doctors (or maybe there weren't that many – he had still been bad with faces at the time), and a frantic, worried and yet relieved Danny, looking like he had barely slept or eaten in days, babbling about how everything was going to be fine now he was going to be alright in no time.
Nicholas let out a sigh, finally looking up from his glass at the city around him. He didn't know why he kept recalling those events, but keeping the track of time gave his mind something to do other than just running in circles of countless what-ifs. Swallowing, he looked down again.
After waking up there had been a few weeks of having lots of questions but being unable to ask them. He had tried, but they would always tell him to take his time and not speak. All he had heard were reassurances and general phrases to cheer him up. "Nobody tells me nothin'," had kept ringing in his head and he had wanted to both laugh and cry, but both had hurt too much.
Nicholas swallowed. It was about six months since he had finally managed to get any information from Danny. Six months since he had found out about his brother's death. Six months of new nightmares to add to the new-ish ones in addition to the ones that had been present for years. Six months of feeling like a failure. Six months of wondering, doubting and wanting to hide behind a wall of denial.
It hadn't been until his release from the hospital that Danny had handed him an envelope, saying that Benjamin's friends had wanted him to have it.
And that was the confusing part. There was no moving letter there, no message in loving memory of his brother – just a date, a time and an address. And there he was now, waiting for something but not knowing what for.
A shadow crossed his peripheral vision, blocking the light from his face. It took him way too long to realise that someone was standing in front of him. It took him even longer to finally look up from his glass to see who it was.
"Hey," the other man spoke softly, his blue eyes watching him intently and with visible concern.
Nicholas couldn't get himself to answer. He couldn't even get himself to change his facial expression. It wasn't even a surprised or shocked one. He just stared. He felt that if he closed his eyes or even blinked, this face, the face that he had known all his life and that was so much like his own, could yet again forever vanish both from his vision and from his life.
This couldn't be possible. This had to be some kind of a trick. Benji was dead – Nicholas had learned all there was about that explosion. He had requested and read all police and news reports… There were so many things he wanted to say, so many questions he wanted to ask… and yet now he felt like he couldn't even open his mouth.
"It's rather nice here, isn't it," Benji commented as he settled down in a chair opposite from Nicholas, looking around him as if in search for some magic artefact that would make the situation less awkward.
To be fair, it was, indeed, rather nice. From where Nicholas was sitting there was a magnificent view of the Thames and the Tower Bridge. Benji faced the opposite direction, with his back to the river, but he was not there to admire views. He kept looking into his brother's eyes, beginning to worry as there was still no response from him. Nick's eyes started to well up a bit. Benji knew this was going to be hard, but he had no idea just how hard it would be.
"Why?" Nicholas asked suddenly, and the sound of his own voice made him shiver a bit, so low and shaky it was.
It was only one word, but Benji read the rest of the question in his brother's eyes. 'Why did you have to do this? What made you put me through this?'
To be completely honest, it hadn't been planned ahead that much. He had been lucky that Ethan had reached him in time, and they both had been extremely lucky to have survived that explosion, albeit far from staying unscratched. The general consensus was to return things to the status quo as much as possible, so that everyone who had been their ally on this case would have plausible deniability.
"It's safer this way," Benji sensed Nick's emotion passing over to him as if by some invisible wire. His voice was now wavering a bit as well.
"Safer for whom?" Nicholas' gaze was still drilling holes in Benji's head, but he was beginning to relax.
"For everyone," was the reply. The agent gave his brother another look. He knew he'd understand. "I'm sorry," he added after a pause, watching emotions finally flooding Nick's face. "I'm sorry for what happened… for what you had to go through… because of me".
Nicholas wanted to reassure him, to apologise as well, even though he had no idea what he'd be apologising for. Instead, he just nodded and shook his head, looking down for a second. When he looked up again, his eyes shone with a different kind of feeling which suddenly hit him, late but strong. He was looking at his brother, who was still alive and well. Benji was alive. The feeling was so overwhelming that Nicholas found himself smiling, almost grinning, and holding back a laugh.
"So," he spoke, watching Benji's face get a slightly confused expression, "how have you been in these eight months?"
It didn't take long for Benji to catch up to his brother's train of thoughts. He smiled one of those smiles he knew Nick loved so much and started on the stories he could tell. This was going to be a long evening, and he was now sure it was going to be a happy one.