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The Invisibility Trap

Chapter Text

Water.

Cool water was swirling beneath his fingertips; floating them up to form little eddies at the interface between liquid and air. Little ripples lapped softly against his aching chest, soothing the electric tingles that still singed and sparked under his skin.

A warm hand filled his. Languorous, all too conscious of his strained an aching neck, Wolfgang rolled his gaze over to the side the hand originated from.

“Ah shit.”

Kala, floating serenely to his left, blinked in surprise and raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Pardon me?”

“I am not dead,” he groaned, letting his eyes slide out of focus again, it seemed to be inordinately difficult to resolve anything at the moment. Probable concussion, the part of him that had been trained to recognize these things whispered.

There was a pregnant pause on Kala’s end, until it seemed he would not elaborate without some prodding, “What gave it away?”

Wolfgang sighed, feeling the water soaking into his beard, now stiff and caked to his face with dried blood and sweat. “I’m pretty sure that people like me, they don’t go the same place you do,” he squinted at her, experimentally closing one eye then the other, “I expect a lot more fire and eternal damnation on my end.”

“Hmm,” Kala made that little noise, the one he had come to associate with disagreement. A corner of his mouth crooked up in expectation. It felt stiff. How long had it been since he had smiled? Certainly not since they had taken him to this place.

“Hmm,” she repeated, and she let of his hand, supporting his back and shoulders instead, as he began to sink a little. It seemed the water they were in was shallow, but he could not even begin to fathom standing up. He felt the cool metal of the ring on her left hand bite into the skin at the base of his neck.

“I do not believe in Hell. But,” she continued, “I find it interesting that you do, given your previous skepticism about God caring enough to intervene in our existence at all.”

Wolfgang, would have shrugged, “Makes perfect sense to me, it seems that the consequences always arrive even if the rewards don’t.”

The scent of chlorine was straggling its way into his senses now, finally overriding the clots of blood in his nostrils. They were in a pool. Wolfgang tried not to think too hard about that; it wasn’t safe to think of locations.

“I am sorry, “ she whispered, and he could feel the strands of her hair lapping against his arm, slippery as silk, “I wanted to come and get you.”

“It’s okay.”

It wasn’t. Many things recently were not okay with Wolfgang, but it didn’t matter now. He understood at least why they had made a move on Whispers first. Guilt began to fill him, dark and viscous as molasses.

“He knows your name,” Wolfgang, felt the words claw a little at his tongue as they left his mouth, “He knows who you are.”

Struggling he twisted to look at her, there was no good way to express his shame “I – I failed you.” He settled on at last.

“That was not your fault,” murmured Kala, as he knew she would. It was not in her to hate, not like him. “No one could have withstood that.”

Wolfgang tried in vain to focus on her face, nothing but an oval, framed with dark curls, “I should have,” he replied at last, breath beginning to come quickly, “I should have been strong enough to resist him.”

But this agony was different than anything before. It was worse than his uncle’s neglectful custody of him, leaving him to the tender mercies of career hit-men. Worse than the clumsy hand-stitching of his more suspicious looking wounds, it was worse even than the brutal beatings his father would unleash; all the more unbearable for their unpredictability.

Then, they could hurt no one but him. He had no one to protect. He could retreat, curl inside that small dark space in his mind, the one he had prepared for such occasions, and wait it out.

But this time his thoughts were not safe. There was no sanctuary. The dark space had been filled.

It belonged to her now. Wolfgang didn’t even know when he had given it up, when he had let her occupy so much of what he had kept empty. When he was hurt he had run to her, never even aware of making the choice to do so. And now they knew her name.

Pain arched hotly up and down his spine for a moment and he felt Kala’s hands rub soothing circles on his back.

“That feels nice,” he exhaled finally, as the hand supporting his shoulders began to loosen the cramped muscles there.

Kala hummed softly, “It is the least I can do,” her expression might have become a bit shy, “I wanted you to wake up comfortable.”

“Thank you,” and there was only the barest hint of irony in his voice. His eyelids felt heavy and he could faintly detect the scent of her hair, mixed in with all the chlorine, dragging his thoughts into sweeter memories.

“It was surprisingly easy to find a pool actually,” continued Kala, “Riley seems to know every little corner of this –“

“Don’t,” warned Wolfgang, cracking one eye open, “It’s not safe.”

“We have Whispers, what else could they do to you?”

“Much more, I suspect.” If there was anything Wolfgang was sure of, it was that. He would not expect a reprieve until he was properly free of BPO, until he put a bullet between Whisper’s eyes, and watched the life drain out of him just to be sure.

Kala sighed as if she could hear his thoughts, and he felt her lips brush softly against his, as blissfully cool as the water beneath him.

Consciousness was fading from him again, but this time it was comforting, welcome. Still he fought the exhaustion, wanting to stay with her just a moment longer.

“I am sorry about Paris.”

Had he ever believed he would make it there? It felt like a dream from someone else’s life.

He felt her smile against his mouth, and if there were tears on her face, they mixed with the pool water and no evidence remained.

“Don’t you dare, I am not giving up on you that easily Wolfgang Bogdanow.”

Chapter Text

The second time he woke it was to the cold metal slat they had strapped him to digging into his back.

Wolfgang felt his skin crawl in disgust.

He had pissed himself sometime between the fourth and fifth shock, and the scrubs they had forced him into were sodden and sticky.

"We don't have long," said Will appearing beside him suddenly, "They are getting more blocker for you as we speak."

Wolfgang nodded tightly, "Anything from Whispers?"

Will's lips pressed together into a line, he seemed to be debating his answer.

"Never mind," muttered Wolfgang saving him the trouble of coming up with an excuse, "I wouldn't tell me either."

Will looked apologetic in that irritating kicked puppy kind of way that only he could pull off. "It isn't safe. We are coming to get you as soon as possible though, as soon as we figure out where you are."

Their eyes keenly scanned the room, it was almost empty accept for the medical equipment, which was completely generic. Whispers had done his job well.

"We know you are most likely in the London area, " mused Will, "But Whispers was the primary target."

His head turned sharply to the right answering a question from an unseen asker. "Its Kala, she wants to know how you are feeling."

"Fine," grunted Wolfgang. Will gave a muted snort of amusement but relayed his message.

He could almost see Kala's dubious expression, but he was glad she couldn't see this.

They must all be on blockers except Will, which meant she had figured out how to make them. He felt a momentary flash of something like pride at that. How he wished he could have seen her face when she had figured it out, joy mixed with just a hint of apprehension; still not used to breaking the rules.

Footsteps sounded in the hall behind him, boots clicking on concrete. Wolfgang turned his gaze urgently back to Will his mind made up.

"Stop looking for me."

"What?" Will looked shocked. "What do you mean?"

"I mean it is a waste of time, I am more use in here than out there. You have Whispers, you have a decent chance at ending the whole thing."

The footsteps were quite close, Will looked like he wanted to argue. "Look," continued Wolfgang, "I can figure my own way out, but if you can take down BPO everyone will be safe, not just me, it isn't worth it, you can't risk the whole cluster this."

Will looked unconvinced but gave a curt nod. Wolfgang felt some modicum of relief at that, Will was a man of his word; he would make sure that no one died for him.

"One more thing," said Wolfgang speaking as softly as he could, even as the figures in white HAZMAT suits began to swarm the room. Will nodded, concentration unbroken, "Find Felix and tell him what is going on, I can't let him think I just left him."

Will nodded tightly again, and then there was a sharp prick at his elbow and his cluster-mate was gone. All there was, was silence, maddening heavy silence.

He was alone.

*** *** ***

They didn't sedate him.

That was their first mistake.

Wolfgang had survived long enough to know when to resist and when to submit. This situation called for the latter. Even so, the people in the HAZMAT suits were understandably cautious as they cut off his scrubs, not even risking loosening the handcuffs to take off his top. Wolfgang tried to keep his expression blank as he looked into the masked faces.

He understood now. Prior to this he had suspected the suits were for preventing anyone from guessing their identity; one more thing to protect BPO, but now he knew that was only half the story.

There was something intimate about torture.

Wolfgang knew this from both ends, although he had never preferred that kind of connection.

Some people did.

His father had.

But, by removing all contact, by not allowing eyes to meet, sweat to drip from one face to the other, by permitting blood to shed only onto gloved fingers: the intimacy was removed. There would be no risk of pity or enjoyment; it was as impersonal as any desk job.

He wondered what they had been told so that they would so willingly don the suits – that he was diseased? That he was dangerous? Insane? Likely he had only contributed to this myth, mowing down two of their own before he was captured.

They had replaced the scrubs with a gown that they could drape over him without releasing the bonds. Wolfgang caught his own reflection in the mirrored visor as one of the people bent to tie it behind his neck.

He looked like absolute shit.

Good. It would make his next move all the more convincing. Rolling his eyes up into the back of his head Wolfgang proceeded to convulse violently, spouting a stream of saliva and blood on the masked face of the guard that leaned over him.

It had the desired response. The one closest to him leapt back with a curse that earned him sharp reprimands from the other two. Wolfgang let a few more shudders run through his body before letting his body go limp.

He had to hide his grin of victory. All of the voices were British. Will was right; he was most likely still in England. If only he could identify regional accents.

The one to his right was wiping the visor with a gloved hand.

Now came the next step; Wolfgang imagined his uncle, pouch-eyed and encircled with cigar smoke saying it – manners are everything boy, manners are everything. The thought of his uncle allowed him to infuse his voice with enough misery to reduce it to a scratchy croak.

"Sorry," he whispered, "I didn't mean to."

The figures didn't respond, but the one that he had spat on shot a quick look at the two on the right. Wolfgang surmised they were the more senior. He filed that away for further inspection.

The one of the figures on the right turned, Wolfgang noticed he now held a blindfold. He had to suppress another grin. This was their second mistake.

Wolfgang was a box-man: one of the best. He had solved puzzles far more complicated than this with only his hearing.

And now, well now he was motivated. As the fabric slid over his eyes, he closed them, purposely letting the muscles of his face relax and his neck loll to the side.

It was difficult for a moment, he hadn't had to crack a safe in months, and certainly not in the aching, starved and dehydrated state he was currently in, but he managed to calm his mind, take only the shallowest breaths. Remember his training.

Still as he could be, he began to listen:

Wheels squeaked: they were moving him.

Fourteen steps, the one on the left was still the shorter one, the one he had spat on.

Beep. They had used an access card.

Twenty-three steps.

An elevator. It was going up.

Four beeps: four floors.

They were all breathing normally, it didn't sound like they were using the reserve oxygen on their backs. What was it for then? Just part of the charade?

Left turn, Forty four steps.

Another beep.

The door opened, but it was not automatic, Wolfgang could feel the two on the right jostle the stretcher as they pushed it open.

Five steps. Stop.

Jangling keys, tapping heels. A fourth person had joined them.

Ten steps. More keys jangling, a door hinge squeaked.

That was interesting. No electronic access. That could mean several things: it might be an older building, incompletely renovated, or a high security area not meant to look high security. Either way it meant that there was limited traffic through the area.

Wolfgang found himself wishing he could reach Nomi. She would no doubt have figured something out already, clattering away on her keyboard spewing a stream of witty comments. She kind of reminded him of Felix in that way; he didn't expect he would miss it so much.

Three steps, and then he could feel the figures hesitating over him. Time to move on to the next step:

"I can stand," he murmured, giving a weak tug at his restraints, "if you need me to."

There was a gasp and rapid fire clattering of heels, more footsteps and Wolfgang heard a hissed conversation.

The woman in the heels was also British and even he could recognize the London accent.

The door hinges squeaked again. They had recognized their mistake.

Wolfgang felt another stab of satisfaction despite the fact his head was now throbbing in earnest and he felt nauseous from the rocking motion of the stretcher.

The woman's panic had told him two things: clearly she was not experienced with dealing with patients like him, but secondly and most importantly, the people in the HAZMAT suits had screwed up.

He knew men like Whispers: control freaks. Things usually fell apart when they left because they wouldn't let anyone else gain enough experience to take over. Clearly his cluster had disrupted things considerably by kidnapping him. He wondered if any of the other clusters had tried that before.

The door opened, hurried footsteps of a different timbre came in, thinly gloved hands lifted his left arm and Wolfgang heard nervous breathing. The needle pricked his skin several times before he felt the tingle of anaesthetic working its way up his arm.

He felt the barest brush of skin as the needle pulled away; the person wasn't wearing a HAZMAT suit.

Had they pulled someone off duty to help? Or was this a person, a nurse maybe, that didn't usually work with his kind?

The latter seemed most likely given the nervousness. Or was that fear from a higher authority? All this could mean this was some sort of medical facility. Possibly one open to the public; easier to escape if that was the case. Wolfgang clung to that thought as unconsciousness over took over.

He would find a way out.

Chapter Text

Kala sighed and stared at her phone screen lying blankly on the bed in front of her. She had, of course, in her rush to leave and subsequent disorientation over Wolfgang's abduction forgotten her charger.

It didn't really matter she supposed, Rajan had told her not to text often as he wasn't sure that his phone wasn't being monitored. Kala had nodded numbly in response to this and let him misinterpret her silence as anger.

The deception stung, but only slightly. After all, what was one more lie to the vast ocean of mistrust between them? And then, with an ease that disturbed her, she shoved him out of her mind, and unlike a certain German safecracker, he stayed there.

But still, jiggling around in the back of her mind was that gnawing, biting sensation of guilt, just waiting to rear its head if she let it. Letting out another sigh Kala burrowed deeper into the pile of blankets Riley had given her, clearly noticing her discomfort with the British weather.

Once again, her cluster-mate had proved to be an invaluable asset, scouting location to location. They were currently somewhere near Manchester, or something along those lines; the cities blurred for Kala, all as grey and bleak as the next. She missed the sunshine, and her father's good cooking and the warmth, although it was nearly as muggy here as in Bombay, but more than anything she missed having Wolfgang in her head.

They had all been taking blockers since they had snatched Whispers and Jonas. Kala found the silence was deadening, oppressive, and achingly lonely. She didn't know how she had managed before her second birth, how any of the 'normal' humans managed.

Her thoughts were terrifying sometimes, growing like vines, choking and desperate. Were she at home she would have gone to the temple and prayed. But she was not, and she had left in such a hurry she had not even remembered to pack her beloved figurine of Ganesh, the one her mother had given her at sixteen.

The only consolation was that she was not physically alone. Robbed of the connection, her cluster felt more like strangers than she was used to, but a whole year inside their heads could not be so easily erased. It had been a considerable relief when she made it off the plane to find Will waiting for her in a dark windowed car, just as steady and calming as he was in her head.

"This place is ridiculous isn't it," said Nomi, plopping down beside her, causing the ancient mattress to creak.

They were staying in some sort of abandoned housing complex, rotting in the shadow of an old steel factory. From the outside it looked like any other abandoned wreck, but the inside, well the inside was almost passible.

"I can't believe it," Nomi cast a glance around the half-lit room, sunlight was barely filtering through a mismatched set of curtains, but there was a lamp on in the corner; the old shack actually had some sort of electricity, there was even a TV, set up so it could be watched from bed. "It is like sketchy Airbnb, or," she amended, "sketchier Airbnb."

Kala gave an absent smile. Her thoughts were elsewhere; Will was supposed to be talking done to Wolfgang now; they had been waiting until he was awake again.

Letting out a third sigh, she attempted to regain some focus; lying beside her phone was a stack of handwritten notes, scrawled on napkins and post-its. Despite being consumed by an almost chronic absentmindedness, she had been attempting to synthesize an injectable version of the blocker as a distraction.

It wasn't as if she were just killing time, injections were far more effective than trying to jam a pill down someone's throat, a valuable consideration for when they woke their prisoners, but it was proving to be an exercise in frustration.

This was no doubt partially due to the rudimentary nature of her supplies; if she were back in her lab in Bombay she knew it would be simple. Here all she had was an assortment of questionable drug paraphernalia and a half working camp stove – far from ideal conditions. But she also knew it was because almost everything she did reminded her of Wolfgang.

Only minutes ago in fact she had been downstairs laboring over what must have been her twentieth attempt when she slopped blocker all over the little camp stove, stirring a mixture of beeswax and canola oil trying to get the drug to dissolve perfectly. A firm squeeze of the shoulder from Will had sent her upstairs to mope instead.

What would Wolfgang say? Were they still hurting him? Fear closed like a fist around her throat at the memory of Wolfgang's face almost unrecognizable with its coating of blood and twisted with agony staring down at her.

It had been nearly a full day since she had snuck into some stranger's empty pool to talk to him, three full days since he had been captured. Kala sighed and rubbed at her throbbing temples; one of the side effects of the blockers.

Nomi had noticed her distraction and gave her hair a reassuring pat. "We'll find him Kala, stay strong."

Kala absently smiled again; Sun had crept into the room, moving in that nearly silent way of hers to poke at the TV.

"I have Bugs and Neets on it even ask we speak," continued Nomi, "And once Whisper's wakes up we will be able to –"

There was a crash in the general vicinity of the TV and Sun let out a muted string of curses.

"Do you-?" Kala began, but Sun was emphatically shaking her head. Nomi continued.

"- we will be able to force the location out of him."

"Will we?" asked Kala, the thought only now occurring to her. How would they get Whispers to talk? Had Will even thought about it? Sure he must have picked up some skills when it came to interrogation, but would it be enough?

None of them were experienced in the area of torture: none other than Wolfgang, of course. Possibly Will could, but he was too moral, to righteous to do such a thing. Looking at it realistically, they all were, except Wolfgang, again.

But what if it was necessary?

Kala's fist closed at the memory of the electric brands burning into Wolfgang's chest; desperate times called for desperate measures after all. The thought of his pain made her angry enough to want to hurt someone, but there was a big difference between intention and action, she knew that now.

Could she do it? She imagined Whispers, two floors below, bound and deeply unconscious, Jonas in a similar state one room over. What would she do? What could she do?

Another clatter brought her out of that avenue of thought with a start, Sun had dropped something again. Nomi was already hurrying over to her.

"Sun what are you -?"

Her cluster-mate sighed, sinking onto the bed with an uncharacteristic thump. "My phone screen is broken. I wanted to watch the news."

Nomi wisely made no comment, and after digging around in her suitcase to locate the correct cord, merely held out her hand for Sun's phone. Sun seemed to hesitate and then passed it over.

Immediately the newscaster's voice filled the room, speaking in bright and bubbly Korean. Nomi fiddled with the volume, and then they all settled back onto the bed, Kala leaning against the headboard and Nomi and Sun sitting at the end.

Kala could tell by the former's unsettled expression that they were experiencing the same thing; understanding the newscast, which their eyes told them was clearly in Korean, as if it were in their native languages, all nuances and idioms intact.

"- the album is expected to be released sometime next year," continued the news woman, her expression now becoming serious, "And now onto our top story tonight: Where in the world is Bak Sun? Ms. Bak, sister to Bak Joon-Ki, and daughter to deceased banking tycoon –"

"What is this?" asked Lito from beside Kala, who jumped in surprise; the sound of the TV must have masked his approach. After a gentle prodding she moved over so that they could share the bed.

"- current CEO of Bak Financial is out of the hospital in good condition, and has released a statement once again encouraging his sister to turn herself in and quote – seek help for what is clearly a violent and homicidal disorder –"

Four pairs of hands formed identical fists, and Nomi placed a restraining hand on Sun's arm. "We only have one TV," Nomi said in a tone that was clearly intended to placate her.

"- Over eight people have died since the shooting at the Bak Gala earlier this week, and six more remain in hospital. Among their number –"

And here Kala felt a quick swell of nervousness, that was terribly familiar but not at all hers, before it was brutally tamped down, like a boot on a cockroach.

"Detective Mun Kwon-Ho, is now in stable condition –"

"He is very handsome," added Lito, in a carrying whisper, as a picture of the detective flashed on screen. Kala couldn't help but agree. Although not quite her type, there was something appealing about a clean-cut crusader for justice.

And of course there were impressions, not even real enough to call memories, of a lean body, golden light, sweat coursing down her face, pleasantly bruised limbs and a surprisingly gentle kiss...

Sun glared at the both of them, before tucking her legs up in a seated fetal position.

"- Although the Seoul Metropolitan Police refuse to issue a statement as to why he was at the Gala in the first place. Rumors have been circulating of widespread corruption remaining inside Bak Financial –"

"I think, sometimes I irritate her," continued Lito, gesturing towards Sun with appealing nonchalance, "can't figure how though..."

 

*** *** ***

"He said what?!" demanded Kala, rounding on Will, who looked wan and emaciated under the harsh florescent light in the kitchen.

Riley sighed, running a hand through her hair, casting shadows on them from her perch on the dilapidated kitchen counter, "It's Wolfgang, I mean did we expect any different?"

"No," conceded Kala, before flaring up with righteous fury, "But I didn't expect you to agree it!"

Will scrubbed a hand through his beard, "He has a point."

"A point?! A point? – I can't – Surely you are not just going to leave him in the hands of, of those monsters!"

"But if we want to bring down BPO..." began Nomi.

"It would be helpful to have a man on the inside. I know," finished Will. "We have to be smart about this."

Kala let out an angry puff of air. This was so like him; she could have kicked herself for not seeing it before. Damn Wolfgang: always choosing the most dangerous times to play the hero.

"I have something passible for an injectable blocker," she said finally, entering back into the conversation after taking a minute to stew angrily. "But I am going to need to make more if we are also using them on Jonas and Whispers."

"What is the plan with them?" asked Capheus, speaking for the first time from his place at the wobbly kitchen table. "I don't like the idea of hurting them."

"They have already hurt us," stated Sun flatly.

"Either way," Will surveyed the room, "I think it is time for us wake our prisoners up."

*** *** ***

"Are you sure you can do this?" asked Will, halting abruptly in the cobwebbed stairwell, in front of the barricaded door, the door to the rooms Jonas and Whispers were in.

Kala gave what she hoped was a convincing nod, "Of course, I mean –" and now that damned tendency to ramble was reasserting itself, "I mean – what is a little violence and interrogation? Why not add to the pantheon of evils a being could commit? I should be going for the full collection." She really hoped Will dismissed the hysteria in her voice for humour.

"Kala..."

"I am just saying, I am likely going to be reborn as a cockroach, or a slug, or some sort of deep sea squid –"

"Kala."

"Right. Yes. I am ready."

Will scrutinized her his one of his analytical 'Officer Gorski' looks. Kala found herself unconsciously straightening her spine.

Whatever Will found in her expression must have been enough, because after a moment he nodded.

"Jonas first?" confirmed Kala. Will nodded again curtly and they unbarred the door to what must have once been the laundry room of the house.

Jonas was collapsed limply on a scrubby mattress one-arm flopping off like a dead fish, the scene reminded Kala unpleasantly of Angelica. Swallowing the nausea that rose in her at the memory of her cluster's mother spattering her brains out into the floor, Kala began to lay out the contents of little kit she had brought along.

With steady hands she measured out the blocker. It was still not perfect; the results could be unpredictable, but still, better than nothing. After she had injected it, she and Will sat back on their heels and waited. It didn't take long; Kala had been very precise when she calculated the heroin dosage – something she had gotten good at in the year Will had been on the run. While they were waiting, just to be safe they handcuffed his hands and feet together.

Jonas stirred weakly then sat up with a violent gasp wobbling dangerously without the use of his hands; his eyes flickered around the room blindly, and then settled on Will.

"You are making a mistake," he panted

'Am I?" Will picked disinterestedly at a spot on his shoe, "Sort of seems like the other way around."

Jonas's flitting eyes met Kala's, if he recognized her he didn't show it, lingering on her only a moment before continuing a frantic scan around the room.

'The blocker works," said Kala, "I can't visit him."

Will nodded approvingly and gestured that Kala should step back. Grasping Jonas firmly by the shirtfront Will forced his roving eyes onto his face.

"Why would you side with BPO?"

Jonas's mouth twisted into a sardonic smile, "You are forgetting, Will, what I told you about us and them."

"Are you trying to tell me that BPO isn't our enemy now?"

"It is not BPO, but what BPO represents that we are fighting."

Will rolled his eyes and gave a threatening jerk of his arm, "Cut the bullshit, I don't have all day."

Jonas attempted to extract his mangled shirt from Will's grasp. "You know there is a divide in BPO, a faction that wishes to return to a more accepting position."

"And which side is the Chairman on?"

Jonas pressed his lips together and smiled, "It doesn't matter."

"How could it not matter?" demanded Will. Kala could begin to see the rage building up in him.

Jonas remained unfazed. "Because, there will always need to be something like BPO, an official system in which we can interface with the sapiens, to ensure our secret is kept, to monitor and maintain the health of our kind."

Will seemed too enraged to say anything but suddenly Kala understood.

"You are afraid that if BPO falls the sapiens will hunt us down instead."

Jonas seemed to see her for the first time. "Kala Rasal I presume."

There was no need to ask how he knew, if Whispers knew it would have only been a matter of time. The thought sent a shiver down her back; she was a fugitive now.

"Yes," Jonas continued, now addressing Will, who was still glowering at him, "I suppose it is ironic, but in a way I an choosing the lesser of two evils. BPO is after all, limited, finite, and to a certain extent, no matter how they bend the rules, governed by the law."

His gaze flickered to Kala. "You both know as well as I there is nothing as dangerous as sapien with a weapon and the ability to mobilize others through fear. The facts don't matter; reason doesn't matter. It only takes one and the hunt will be on."

Wills grip on his shirt had slackened, and Jonas jerked himself free and sat up a little straighter. "It only takes one," he repeated, "And there are billions."

"They are better than that," murmured Kala, although she was having flashbacks to the riot at the temple, sharp elbows digging into her sides, experiencing for the first time the claustrophobia of so many people in one space, bubbling like an overfull pot. "It is possible they would accept us, wonder at us even."

"You have not seen very much of the world have you?" There was no derision in Jonas's voice, just a patient sort of sadness.

"Perhaps not," replied Kala, "Or perhaps I have not given into pessimism and rebranded it as realism."

"What of Angelica's research?" interjected Will, "I remember that she had started it with the intention to make the sapiens less afraid."

"Yes," Jonas licked his lips, and Kala poured some water from a plastic bottle into his mouth, "She thought that if they knew all about us, they would be more accepting, removing the unknown as it were. But the more they knew the more they began to fear for privacy, both personal and governmental. The neural graft was devised as a way to allow sapiens to connect to sensates, as we do to each other, so that if needed they could be monitored."

He smiled sadly, "Angelica thought that if they could just experience what it is like to be connected to another in that way, they would no longer be afraid. That it would breed an inescapable empathy of a sort." He met Kala's eyes, "She was an optimist as well."

"But it didn't work?" prodded Will, he had gotten up and was pacing back and forth in front of the grubby mattress.

"Not on sapiens, no," Jonas gave a significant nod at Will, "But with other sensates, well we all know how that turned out."

Kala watched as her cluster-mate swore softly under his breath. She couldn't tell if Jonas was gratified by this response or not, his face was carefully blank.

"BPO will already be doing damage control, you can expect a full system overhaul in a matter of days" warned Jonas, "Whatever you do will need to do it quick and you will need to be careful."

"What do you think?" asked Kala. They were back upstairs all crowded around the kitchen table. Amanita was fiddling with the camp stove making tea; she had proven to be the most proficient at using it. This was a source of some surprise, before with an eye-roll and a toss of her hair she reminded them – "I grew up in a commune guys, I am better at this than all of you."

Nomi's eyes never left the screen of her computer; a grainy image of Jonas pacing around the room they had left him in was on the bottom corner. "I think he is telling the truth."

"I think he is just trying to save his skin," Amanita piped up from behind them.

"Could be both," mused Will.

Riley, who was the only one off blockers and as such was in a quarantine of sorts in the closet upstairs made a noise of agreement. They had decided communication over phone was the safest option when off blockers, so her voice was coming over the phone they had sitting in a bowl in the counter.

"How is Wolfgang?" asked Kala, unable to keep a note of anxiety out of her voice.

"Still can't reach him." Riley shrugged, "Must be on blockers."

"Any other visitors?"

"None." She frowned, "It has been oddly quiet."

"I don't like it," murmured Sun, accepting a mug of tea from Amanita.

In unison they looked to Will, who was leaned over the edge of the table, drumming his fingers.

"We stick to the plan," he said finally and it was decided.

Chapter Text

For a moment he was disoriented, floating above his body, almost pleasantly so; then the bitter taste of iron began to fill his mouth.

Blood. His. Old, already clotted.

Well, thought Milton calmly, it wouldn't be the first time, and for a moment he imagined that he was indeed back in the parliament facility, just woken from one of his neural graft experiments.

This specific situation, however, and he eyed the room subtly attempting to remain as still as possible, this, this would be a first.

So Mr. Gorski had gotten it into his head that staging a kidnapping was a good idea. The cop was proving to be a great inconvenience. This whole thing, from the moment he caught that girl in Iceland, an idiotic waste of time, and a terrible miscalculation on his part. A mistake he wouldn't make again.

No doubt they got that insubordinate streak from their mother. There were many traits he had admired about Angelica; it was a pity that the only one she seemed to have passed on was her absolute pigheadedness. But if history proved anything it was that he knew how to subdue that tendency, to use it to his advantage.

There was a rustle in front of him.

A girl, no a woman, but one that held herself with the innocence of a little girl sat cross-legged in front of him. She even had on a floral dress, the loose fitting kind, with pockets. She stuck out like a sore thumb in this dingy – cellar? Basement? Basement seemed the most likely.

Milton felt his mouth curl into a smile – Ms. Rasal. What a pleasant surprise. Or, he corrected mentally, Mrs. Rasal eyeing the ostentatious diamond ring on her finger; it had probably cost more than fifty of the shithole basements he was currently chained in.

Married rich only to have an affair: naughty, naughty.

"Does your husband know that you are fucking another man? Or do you tell yourself it is only in your head?"

The woman let out a soft gasp; she had not been looking at him her head had been down - focused on her lap – praying?

He wouldn't know, even as she made fearful eye contact with him. They had put him on blockers, even Jonas who was so omnipresent in his periphery these days was gone. Which meant they had found a way to make the drug soluble, or they had stolen some from the parliament facility before they took him.

Milton took a moment to be mildly impressed by that, clearly a multi-talented cluster. It would be such a shame if they went to waste.

"Where is Wolfgang?" Mrs. Rasal seemed to have tears glistening in the corner of her eyes; a full lower lip was trembling.

Milton almost felt pity for her.

Any sentiment of that sort however was immediately eclipsed by pleasure at how easy it was going to be to break her, and maybe just a hint of disappointment. It had been so long since he had a proper challenge.

Will Gorski was amusing, but conventional. Mr. Bogdanow was more of a wild card, and so deliciously resilient to pain... but perhaps that was all. Perhaps this cluster had already given him all it had to offer. Then again perhaps he was wrong; this one didn't seem to have inherited any of Angelica's stubbornness. But be careful, a voice in him whispered, you underestimated them before.

"Mr. Bogdanow? Oh, dear, I can't just go telling anyone that. Besides," Milton gave a conspiratorial smile, tasting fresh blood as his lips cracked, "Men like him are better locked up. I would assume you know his, ah, colourful history."

Mrs. Rasal didn't respond; the glistening dark eyes had become doubtful, but still fiercely protective. So expressive: no wonder he loved her - a lifetime of lies and then to find one so naïve, so uncorrupted.

Angelica was just the same, until she wasn't.

"No? Well," He feigned concern, "I won't horrify you with the details, but you can be sure, after the things he has done: the slaughter of his own uncle and cousin, that debacle in Russia two years ago, decades of petty theft, extortion, murder and torture... well I am shocked there is anything human left."

"You are better off without him," he added adopting the same tone of voice he would use on his daughter when she was begging him for yet another new toy.

She had leaned forward now; he was chained to some sort of pillar, sprawled on the fetid concrete floor – the whole place smelled of piss. Except her, she smelled of expensive perfume and faintly sweat – she was nervous.

"Please, please, I don't want to hear about it," she beseeched, "Just tell me where Wolfgang is, I will do anything."

Milton pretended to think about it. "Would you let me go?"

"Would you promise not to hunt us down?"

Fool.

"Yes, yes, of course. I would be most grateful. Clearly your cluster is more powerful than expected."

"Where is he then?"

"Let me go first."

Mrs. Rasal regarded him with doe-eyed innocence. "Promise me."

A beat. Hesitation was necessary to be convincing.

"I promise."

She reached behind him cautiously, as if approaching a caged tiger, and with a clink Milton felt his hands fall free. Mrs. Rasal shied back as he got to his feet.

Gorski could throw a punch; he would give him that. He was at least mildly concussed. Stretching his arms over his head, Milton took his bearings. As he had suspected, they were keeping him a basement of some kind; it was completely dark except for one bare flickering bulb.

"How will I get out?"

"I stole blockers," she confessed, still skittish as she led him to a back door, "They don't trust me anymore, I just wanted them to rescue Wolfgang." She hesitated, listening before she unlocked the backdoor with a key she had hidden in the folds of her dress. "There is a car out there, it has the keys in it and everything, you will have a head start - everyone is asleep."

Her hand closed on the knob, 'Now tell me where he is."

"I will need protection." Milton injected a note of anxiety into his voice, while still keeping it soft and low, it was important not to startle her.

He was shocked at how easy this was, but then of course that had always been their weak spot.

The connection almost always engendered this obsessive desire for another within the cluster. It was repulsive; he had seen grown men wilt like daises when their 'special' cluster-mate was killed.

In his earlier experiments he had even seen one starve himself to death, despite constant temptation otherwise. Imagine such a thing; to have such absolute control over another. Even the neural graft, which could simulate bodily cooperation, could never provide that level of mental sway. This one, already so delicate, didn't stand a chance.

Milton remembered with satisfaction when he had finally freed himself from his closest cluster-mate. She had been so surprised, the final little look of shock on her face: Delicious. Only then had he truly understood freedom.

Hands shaking, Mrs. Rasal drew a handgun from the pocket of her dress and passed it to him. It was fully loaded, safety off.

Milton had to suppress his grin.

Such a little fool: this would be an unfortunate waste, she would have served his purpose well, but there would be others, and he still had Mr. Bogdanow.

He wondered if there was some way to photograph this, to stage it just right, to preserve it for later use.

His prisoner would know of course, they always had a way of knowing even on blockers, still one of the mysteries he had yet to unravel. But to actually see it, to relive it in his memories... It was with this thought in mind and the exquisite agony that the image would create that Milton raised the gun and fired.

*** *** ***

For a minute he didn't realize what was wrong, Mrs. Rasal had crumpled, but the spray of blood he had been expecting didn't come.

At the exact same moment the door they had been standing in front of flew open and instead of darkness his eyes were pierced with blinding daylight.

When his vision returned Will Gorski was standing at the door with a grin and an assault rifle.

*** *** ***

"Told you it wouldn't work," said Will, roughly cuffing a resigned Whisper's arms together.

Kala rolled her eyes, feeling the unfamiliar but addictive thrill of having outsmarted their enemy, "It was worth a try, at least."

"What now?" asked Whispers through gritted teeth, "Are you planning to beat me?"

"Oh no," Will had walked around so they were eye to eye, that unbearably smug look on his face again.

He nodded to Kala, "Much better than that."

And Kala felt another surge of gratification as a flash of surprise crossed Whisper's face; she would have to thank Lito again. They were on blockers still but he had given her an excellent crash course in acting. Of course she hadn't had to reach far, anxiety and despair over Wolfgang was nothing unfamiliar.

"All yours," continued Will, and he stepped back, assuming a position of utmost ease, leaning against the only door out.

Kala settled in front of Whispers again, assuming a comfortable cross-legged position. She drew a metal tin out from behind a nearby pile of rubble and selected a syringe from within.

"Do you know what MPTP is?" she asked conversationally, briskly snapping on a pair of plastic gloves.

Whispers did not reply.

"You should," Kala ran her fingers thoughtfully up and down the barrel of the syringe, "Any neurosurgeon worth his doctorate should know. Especially one your age," she added.

She leaned forward and placed the tip of the needle to his skin. Her hand was shaking, but only slightly, most of her doubts had been removed when he tried to shoot her in the head.

She had killed for her cluster before. Sure it was in self- defense, but if anyone deserved it... or at least that is what she told herself. She knew that Wolfgang would do this for her without a second thought.

Smoothly she depressed the plunger a few millimeters and then pulled the syringe away. She watched Whisper's eyes dilate in fear.

"Just a small amount to begin with," Kala continued, returning the syringe to the tin, and then pulling out as second one. "Not enough to cause permanent damage to the substantial nigra, but enough to cause the symptoms."

Whispers let out a strangled gasp as his hands began to tremor uncontrollably. Kala noted this with a clinical detachment: first came the shakes, and then –

"You wouldn't dare," he gasped.

"There won't be total paralysis," Kala assured him, "I need you to be able to talk, but –"

- She eyed his fingers, now curled in a contorted half claw, completely jerking wildly - "there is no use for a doctor who can't even control his hands."

"You will live to regret this," snarled Whispers.

"Mmm," Kala held up the second syringe, "Want to guess what this one is?"

"L-Dopa," muttered Whispers, his voice had gone flat, emotionless.

"Exactly," Kala smiled, it came out more like a leer; this disturbed her, but she couldn't think of that now. "Much harder to find I grant you, MPTP being just a by-product of a street drug, and this, this being one of the only treatments. But I think I have enough."

She leaned even closer; she could make out the blood soaked hair on his chin, the reek of his breath. "I will ask you a question, if you answer it correctly, I will give you a dose of dopamine, if you fail to answer, I will give you more MPTP. And – " they were nose to nose now " – we both know how little it takes for the damage to become permanent."

She settled back into her position, "Are we clear?"

Whispers glared at her through clenched teeth.

"Good," Kala let sweetness fill her voice again, "I have quite a list."

*** *** ***

"I'll miss you," whispered Kala, watching Capheus pack his bags. "I can't help but feel like we are sending you back to more danger, with Mandiba and the gangs and everything."

Capheus looked up at her, and reached out to take her hands with a characteristically kind smile, "I am not scared, I know that I am not alone."

"And what about the other sensates?" asked Kala, she had almost forgotten about them what with all the panic following Wolfgang's abduction.

"Maybe once I am off blockers they will try and contact us again," Capheus brightened, "Perhaps they can help."

"Perhaps," Kala couldn't help smiling back at him. When she had emerged from the cellar, her other cluster-mates had shied away slightly looking at her with awe and a hint of terror.

But not Capheus, he was forgiving in a way she used to understand. He thought the best of people, always. "I think you will be a good leader."

"I don't know," Capheus settled beside her, a little puff of dust rising from the couch cushions as he did so, "I don't know anything about government." He looked down, a little ashamed, "I haven't even had to really read in years," his eyes met Kala's, "I haven't told Zakia that yet."

"I'll help you," promised Kala, "All you need is practice."

Irrepressible, his smile was firmly in place again, "Thank you Kala." He squeezed her hands, "If you ever need a getaway driver..."

Kala genuinely smiled back, something she hadn't done since they had taken Wolfgang, "You will be the first person I call."

Lito was packing too; they had all agreed he was too high profile now to be of much use to them in person.

"And besides," said Nomi, giving him a fond kiss on the cheek, "You have a movie to shoot."

Lito didn't argue too much, Kala knew he was thinking of Daniela and Hernando whom he had left at the airport in Los Angeles with not much more than a garbled explanation.

That just left Sun, Nomi, Will and Riley of the cluster remaining. Kala knew that Will and Riley would not be parted again, and the darkest part of her envied them fiercely.

She also knew part of her was taking out her frustrations on Whispers. He had unsurprisingly proven resilient and clever, but ultimately no match for her cluster. They had the advantage of seven minds working as one, whereas he only had himself. Kala wondered what that was like, the sheer loneliness of being the only one in your cluster, like an open phone line with no one on the other end.

She had interrogated (and there was no other way to put it) him for hours the night before. Wringing information out of him like water from a piece of wet laundry. She had thought through her list carefully, nothing that would tip him off to the idea that they weren't planning on rescuing Wolfgang, nothing that they couldn't verify or at least question.

It was slow going. She had gone to bed, finally leaving Whispers little more than shaking sweaty bundle on the floor, drained in a way that she had never truly understood. And that night she had nightmares about needles and paralysis and gunshots in the dark.

The next morning, over a steaming cup of tea, Will had suggested they split up. Which was why they were all standing in the front yard smiling, and wiping tears as they watched Capheus and Lito pull away in a stolen black hatchback, bumping over the disused pavement and blowing litter.

Will gently tapped her on the shoulder, drawing her out of her thoughts.

"Can I talk to you?"

Kala stepped aside, out of earshot of the others.

"Are you ok?" asked Will, "I know what you did yesterday was... difficult."

Kala nodded dismissively; if she wasn't ok she didn't want to think about it now, not when there was still work to be done. The plan they had made for Whispers had been conceived in such a whirlwind she hadn't had time in the past day to properly process how she felt, she had just sort of filed it to the side, dumping it next to her failing marriage and her fear for Wolfgang.

"Of course, is something wrong?

"No, no," Will shook his head. "It's all good. Everything is going according to the plan. This is about Wolfgang."

"Go on."

Will seemed to shift uncomfortably from foot to foot. She was on blockers so Kala could not figure out what was making him so nervous. That was enough to make her uneasy.

"He asked a for you to do something for him. He wants you to find Felix. He wants you to tell him what is going on."

Kala nodded. To be honest she had been expecting this, there was no way that Wolfgang would forget about his best friend; she was however a little surprised he would ask her. "Are you sure you won't need me?"

"No," replied Will honestly, "But we are going to need more blockers, and Felix might be able to help you get what you need."

Kala nodded again.

"It will be dangerous," warned Will, "You will need a plan."

"Don't worry," Kala smiled at him with a confidence she was only half faking.

She barely recognized herself. Words from what felt like forever ago echoed in her ears, Wolfgang, nose going a rosy pink in the cold, acknowledging the darkness in her before she even understood it herself – we are perfect for each other...

"I know what I am doing."

Chapter Text

"You lied to her," stated Wolfgang, glancing coolly up at Will, "Why?"

The blockers had worn off towards the tail end of the Will's conversation with Kala, and he had one moment only to glimpse the familiar mixture of focus and determination on her face, before Will had turned and taken another blocker.

In the hours following that, Wolfgang took his time to get acquainted with his new lodgings. They were surprisingly comfortable; barren and built like a hotel room suite, but done up in surprisingly tasteful mahogany and plush orange upholstery. No windows of course, and no less than five cameras by Wolfgang's estimate, but still, better than he expected.

That made him very uneasy.

Not as uneasy however, as the things he observed in a more detailed look around. Things that might have escaped the untrained eye - like the fact nearly all the furniture was bolted to the floor, and nothing had sharp corners.

An experimental tug on the sheets of the bed he had woken up in yielded further findings, as he watched them snap and tear like paper with only moderate force. The clothes they had put him in were equally delicate; a thin cotton shirt and slacks, no strings, no belt, no tie.

Will had appeared as Wolfgang was deep in thought, running the flimsy material of the shower curtain through his fingers. There was of course no bathtub.

"Why are your bath towels so thin?" asked his cluster-mate, and Wolfgang froze for a moment trying to decide if he was going to try and hide that his blockers had worn off.

In the bathroom alone there were two cameras and at least four listening devices. Wolfgang gave it up as a lost cause and shrugged, leaving the room and heading to the little sitting area.

The couch was one of those old fashioned ones with the unnecessarily ornate armrests, Wolfgang was uncomfortably reminded of Sergi and lowered himself into the cushions with more force than intended.

"Why do you think?" he replied, and gave a humourless smile, as Will seemed to put two and two together, scanning the round cornered furniture, the complete absence of any glass or sharp objects.

"It's suicide proof," Will sounded shocked.

Wolfgang just saluted him with a paper cup full of water. Nothing really shocked him any more, especially not when it came to BPO.

"So," he repeated conversationally, "You lied to her, you sent her to find Felix."

His cluster-mate sighed and rubbed his eyes, "It seemed like something you would want. To keep her safe: away from BPO. Plus this way she can make more blockers, Felix will help her right?"

Wolfgang nodded, "I think she will be able to figure something out. As long as it isn't in Berlin, its not safe there."

Will continued his investigation of his accommodations Wolfgang let the silence stretch and then – "That's not the only reason you sent her away is it?"

His cluster-mate froze, leaned over an empty bookcase. "No," he replied at last. "I – I asked her to do too much, I thought perhaps she wouldn't be able to go that far, but I was wrong."

Wolfgang felt his jaw tighten, "You will tell me if she gets hurt."

Will hesitated. Wolfgang raised a threatening eyebrow. "Yes," Will sighed again, "Of course, I wouldn't keep that from you."

"Good." Wolfgang let his shoulders relax. His head was throbbing; Will nodded in sympathy as Wolfgang rolled his shoulders.

"I fucking hate the blockers man," Will sighed settling into an armchair across from Wolfgang. "I can see how someone would go as crazy as Whispers, I would if I had to take them for years and years."

"Do you have a plan for him?"

Will hesitated and then shrugged. Wolfgang hid a smile, it would seem that Gorski was not half as naive as he seemed.

"Do you have a plan to get out?"

Wolfgang also shrugged, but then caught Will's eye and allowed himself a fleeting smirk, "I will handle it."

"Mm," Will closed his eyes and lounged against backrest of the chair he was sitting in. In real life, his cluster-mate was uncomfortably cramped into a dirty closet, door firmly shut, and not even the barest light penetrating the space.

Wolfgang had let out a slightly amused snort the first time he had visited, Felix would have had some sort of witty comment at the ready, but that had never been Wolfgang's forte.

After a while Will began to talk. Wolfgang, who would never admit it, but was beginning to find his isolation grating, just leaned back and listened. Gorski was careful, but based on what Wolfgang knew of his cluster be began to intuit what was going on.

They had set up a shift of a sort. There was no clock in the room that they were keeping him in but he could keep track of time by who was visiting him.

They had agreed it was safest that only one person at a time would be off blockers to do so and then only Nomi, Will or Riley who had to be off blockers the most in case The Archipelago tried to contact her.

Sun, Lito and Capheus were off limits incase they tried to use the Traceworks machine to find the rest of the cluster, even though Wolfgang was not convinced they could operate it without Whispers. It was better to be safe.

And Kala, Kala was of course off limits because she was travelling now.

Again, time having very little meaning for him, Wolfgang couldn't say how long after Gorski left she had visited him, he just knew, suddenly when he felt her fingers lace through his. It was like a beam of sunlight filling his windowless room.

She had come to say goodbye.

"I can't tell you where I am going," she had whispered, even as he buried his face in her hair, relief singing through him at the sight of her, as if he had been holding his breath without knowing it. "But I will be very careful, I promise."

"I believe you." Unbidden his fingers were already sliding down her back, pulling her into his lap. It was always like this, every time he saw her; scared that this would be his last opportunity to kiss her, to hold her. It was the worst addiction he had.

Perhaps it was because they were so close, or perhaps it was simple deprivation, but he felt almost painfully aware of her presence. He could almost feel the shivers that ran under her skin, the way that her breath would catch in her throat just so if he kissed that place on her neck.

She had been worrying about something before she came in here, he could tell, but she had buried it as soon as he appeared, and now it was exceptionally hard to focus. His brain had a habit of turning off the moment she ran her fingers through his hair, scraping ever so gently with her nails

And the way that her hips would sway just the slightest bit against his: she was breathing his name in his ears –

"Time to go," called Will, banging a fist loudly on the door of the closet, "Your seven minutes of heaven are up."

He could feel Kala, now crammed uncomfortably into a corner make a face against his neck. "This is nothing like heaven," she snapped, and on the other side of the door Will roared with laughter.

"Why is he laughing? What is seven minutes in heaven?" she whispered. Wolfgang who had a knee digging into his chest, gave a non-committal shrug, and then remembered belatedly that she couldn't see him.

"If you are here it must be heaven."

He didn't need any light to see her rolling her eyes. Good. This was how he wanted to remember her. He felt her fumble for a moment and then his head was cradled against her chest.

"I love you," she whispered, and he felt her press a kiss to the top of his head. And for a moment all that existed was the sound of her heartbeat in his ears, the scent of her skin, both of them safe in the darkness.

Heaven indeed.

 

*** *** ***

With no cues from the sun, Wolfgang's sleep cycle quickly went out of balance. Mostly he kept track based on the schedules of his cluster-mate: the one acting as sentry, the only one not consistently on blockers.

"There is a study about this you know," whispered Nomi; she was curled up on a tiny mattress they had shoved in the closet when it became clear this would be a long-term thing.

"Yeah?" asked Wolfgang, he was doing sit-ups on the floor, toes tucked under an ottoman, that and a small coffee table in front of the couch were the only things he had managed to move.

This little sitting area had become his improvised gym. What he really wanted was a cigarette, but like Sun had done before him, he was trying to retain his sanity using exercise. The results thus far were mixed.

"Yeah," Nomi wriggled uncomfortably, "They put a bunch of people in total darkness, and with no cues from the sun their circadian cycle settled into about nine hours of sleep a day.

"Huh," Wolfgang switched to a bicycle, his abdomen searing with pain. "I can't remember the last time I slept nine hours straight."

"Me neither," his cluster-mate joined him on the floor, sliding into some kind of yoga stretch, "Insomnia?" she asked.

Wolfgang nodded, laying down flat beside her. "That and I guess I am just used to it; my dad, he used to come home late, and loudly. Drunk," he clarified.

Nomi nodded and didn't ask for details. Wolfgang appreciated that.

"What do you think their plan is?"

Wolfgang opened his mouth to speculate – but was interrupted by a polite knock on the door.

"Guess we will find out."

Chapter Text

Where the fuck was Wolfie?

Felix stood in his friend's empty sunlit apartment feeling the hair stand up on the back of his neck.

It had been five fucking days. Felix was starting to fear the worst, but rather than stroll down the riverbanks looking for bodies or contact the police (as if) he had decided to take matters into his own hands.

His first glance through the apartment three days ago hadn't yielded any clues, but now - standing here again - he felt his skin begin to crawl.

These guys were good.

Like, secret agent good.

It had taken him at least half an hour to figure out that someone had been shot in here, and that was only because he had slept on Wolfie's floor often enough to notice the new singed spot on his floor where a casing had fallen.

But there was no blood, barely even the slightest trace of cleaning solution, Wolfie's stuff was lying about the room, not untidy, but not obsessively neat – exactly the way it should be.

Had Wolfie just left to India without him? It didn't seem likely, and his suitcase was still here. Fucking India, it was like a bad omen. Anytime either of them mentioned that trip something terrible happened.

Felix sighed, he would have to get back to work soon, his lunch was almost over and the cashier he had hired was new enough to get antsy if left to long.

His first suspicion had of course been Fuchs; a problem because even he was not stupid enough to go up against him directly. That was more Wolfie's province. Felix was a thief, not a Chuck Norris wannabe.

But now... looking at the room a second time...

Felix knew Wolfie had been hiding something from him for a while now. They had been friends for almost twenty years, he knew when he was lying, but Felix wasn't the kind to pry.

He knew the secrets that Wolfgang kept weren't ones that could hurt him, just ones that would make people treat him in a way he didn't want them too - like the secrets about his dad, or how he had lost his bat-shit crazy mom.

Felix had figured that this was something like that. Wolfie would tell him eventually, he always did - it was just a matter of time.

Their friendship worked because Felix liked to talk, and Wolfie liked to listen. Doing things the other way around was unnerving, reserved for the most severe circumstances. Felix hadn't thought things had been that bad.

But now he wasn't so sure. What could Wolfie have gotten tangled up in that would call for a hit of this caliber?

Felix sniffed at the air again, still only able to catch the barest hit of bleach. Had Wolfie missed when he had fired? That didn't seem likely. And no bullet holes in the wall. No, they must just have an excellent clean up crew.

Leaning against the doorframe, Felix rubbed his temples.

They had never been apart for this long, as stupid as it sounded, not even as kids.

Felix thought back to their first summer together. Sometime only a few weeks after school had ended, Felix's mom had caught them smoking cigarettes in the basement for the first time.

The woman had been beyond pissed; she had even called Wolfie's dad. Felix recalled how his mom's eyes had this way of bulging out of her face when yelling, like a demented goldfish. Fuck, Felix did not miss living at home. She had confined him to his room for a solid two weeks; he even ate his meals in there. And no TV: it was brutal.

Still, it had only taken hours for Wolfie to show up under his window, dressed in that same jacket and yellow hoodie he always wore, as if he avoided going home long enough to change.

They had scaled the fire escape together, Wolfie going noticeably slower than usual and Felix knew, even at that age, that he had been hurt.

And he knew, even at that age, not to say anything about it.

They had sat up on the roof for a long time, not even talking that much, just watching the clouds pass by. Wolfie, who was always hungry back then, had sat silently finishing off the remains of Felix's dinner, and Felix just fiddled with the leaves that had collected on the shingles.

Felix sighed again, and shook his head as if to clear it. He would find him, he always had.

When he arrived back at his shop it was predictably quiet, with the cashier picking moodily at his nail beds.

"Package came for you Felix," the boy pointed to the counter where a slim box sat.

Felix nodded in acknowledgement and brought it with him to the back of the shop, it was probably just the key fobs that he had ordered. But one look at the return address made him freeze in place.

It was blank.

Suspiciously, Felix put his ear to the cardboard. Didn't sound like an explosive. But...

"Hey, Max!" bellowed Felix, and the boy jumped.

"Yeah?"

"Take this outside and open it will you? Someone has been sending me cow shit as a joke."

"Argh, are you kidding?"

"Fuck no," Felix eyed the kid sternly, "You want your next fucking pay-check?"

Max sighed and took the package.

Felix watched him go with mild apprehension. But the kid returned seconds later with the opened box.

"Nothing," he reported, dumping the box on his desk, "Just this old DVD."

Felix looked at the cover and felt his apprehension grow even further.

"Good movie, that one," Max nodded at the cover, "Bit outdated though."

"That will be all," muttered Felix distractedly.

The DVD case was that for Conan the Barbarian: Deluxe Edition.

Felix opened the case with some trepidation but found the disc exactly where it should be. Carefully he popped the disc out of its holder. There was a sheet of paper underneath.

On it, written in unfamiliar hand, was a single address, a date and a time.

*** *** ***

Kala felt like an idiot, pacing around an abandoned, likely rat infested, warehouse. Felix was five minutes late already – what if he didn't come?

There was a scuffling noise and Kala jumped, but it was too small to belong to a human.

Kala shuddered, she hated rats, after working with them for years during her Ph.D she had become nearly deathly allergic to them, not to mention the fact that they were disagreeable and squirmy.

At the far end of the warehouse there was a definitive creak as the door swung open. Felix strode through looking in cooler than her in every way possible. He was sporting a riveted brown leather jacket for the occasion, all topped off with a flamboyant Hawaiian shirt and a giant metal pipe.

Even though she had been expecting him Kala couldn't help jumping with surprise. Spotting Kala, he made an unintelligible remark. Kala blinked in confusion for a moment before realizing that without Wolfgang in her head, she didn't speak German.

Likely in response to her expression of incomprehension, Felix leveled the pipe at her head and repeated himself in English, "Who the fuck are you?"

Kala raised her hands non-threateningly - hopefully he wasn't too skittish. It had occurred to her that this was a perfect place for a murder, but she had chosen it because it was far enough out of the city to avoid running into Fuchs or Lila or any people from BPO.

"I am Wolfgang's friend."

If this answer surprised him, he didn't show it.

"Wolfie doesn't have any friends."

Except you, replied Kala silently. Bless Felix and all his loyalty. How was she supposed to swing this? She had help on everything else; deception really wasn't her strong suit. Or she didn't think it was. Recent events might have proved differently.

"I am the reason for the India trip," said Kala at last. She had rather hoped to avoid this.

"India trip?" Felix's face went blank for a moment and then reassumed it's suspicious expression.

Kala nodded. She really hoped she wasn't going to have to elaborate. "We are, um, close friends."

"Fuuck," Felix flicked his eyes up and down her figure, but did not lower the pipe "Fuck, really? I mean – I guess you are exactly his type, but –"

"What is that supposed to mean?" inquired Kala, distracted despite herself and slightly irked, "His type?"

Felix clammed up immediately, "He is going to kill me."

*** *** ***

"You are fucking insane woman," Felix leaned back, tipping precariously in the wobbly diner chair.

"Keep your voice down!" muttered Kala, firmly resisting the temptation to scold him for sitting on the chair like that.

"I still don't believe you." Felix nodded at the waiter and he brought him another beer.

"You never noticed Wolfgang acting strangely this past year? Seeming more paranoid than usual?"

Felix seemed to think about it. "Well, yeah," he let the chair fall back onto four legs with a thud, "Here is the thing, Kala if that is really your name, what you are saying could be true, and there is some crazy government agency after him for some secret reason –"

He shot Kala a sarcastic look - she had been rather vague on the whole function of BPO. If Wolfgang hadn't told Felix about being a sensate, she didn't want to be the first person he heard it from.

" – And that could be why he has been acting weird. Or, it could just be because he is Wolfie, and Wolfie does whatever the fuck he wants." He took a swig of beer, "And for that matter so do I. So tell me why I shouldn't just walk away and find him myself."

"Because I have all the information, and because Wolfgang would never forgive me if I let you get hurt,"

Kala crossed her fingers under the table. She really didn't have a plan B. She supposed she could try and kidnap him, take him back to the safe house in England. But for that she would need Sun, and Felix, despite looking skinny and frail, likely could hold his own pretty well.

"Ok."

Kala breathed an internal sigh of relief. Felix seemed to scrutinize her beadily before finishing his thought, "Ok," he repeated, "but on one condition."

Chapter Text

"Come in," He called, not without a dash of irony, because the door was most definitely locked from the outside. But the illusion of control was nice; he wondered for whose benefit it was created.

Jangling keys, and then a well-manicured man walked into the room. On the whole he was entirely innocuous looking, almost offensively bland. Wolfgang deeply mistrusted him.

Immediately following the man however, was a bizarre looking flying robot humming and buzzing away like a nest of wasps.

Beside him Nomi got very excited.

"Greetings Mr. Bogdanow," said the man pleasantly, moving as if to sit on the ornate sofa. The door locked behind him, his accent was American; Wolfgang noted this will a sort of automatic numbness. An attempt to throw him off? Make him question his England theory?

"Who the fuck are you?" he inquired in a somewhat less polite tone.

The man seemed to ponder this for a while, "I am the Representative," he replied at last, "Pleasure to meet you."

"That's a prototype Mark 2 Haevic quadricopter mid-range dart drone," hissed Nomi in his ear, "Holy shit, I thought those things were only used in like remote parts of Africa for wild animal research. It has a really advanced laser tracking system... and of course the tranquilizer system can be loaded with any drug..." Nomi trailed off.

"Lovely," replied Wolfgang to both.

"Ah, yes," the Representative seemed to notice Wolfgang had not moved or taken his eyes off the drone. "Nothing to be concerned about, if you cooperate."

Wolfgang raised an eyebrow, but permitted the man to brush past him and settle on the couch, "I don't like threats."

"Me neither," said the man amicably; Wolfgang tensed even further. "How about I lay it out for you?"

Wolfgang hesitated, but seeing as he really didn't have a choice, he settled into the armchair across from the Representative.

Spindly and still humming the drone followed his movements.

Nomi was scrolling furiously through her phone, "This does not look good."

"Go on," Wolfgang tried to give the appearance of calmness. The man did not carry any keys that he could tell, and the only way out was past that drone and a firmly locked door.

The Representative poured two glasses of water, squaring the coffee table that usually sat between them as he did so. He then opened a pillbox, which he had been keeping in his breast pocket and passed a single blocker over to Wolfgang, settling it beside a cup of water. "For this conversation, we require that you be on blockers."

Nomi was making vehement head-shaking motions. "This is not good, that thing is meant to dart elephants and rhinos, there is no way –"

"Why?" asked Wolfgang, ignoring how the drone had gotten closer during the course of the conversation.

"Company policy," the man smiled blandly, "Protocol, I am sure you understand."

He waved an airy hand, " Of course the drone has an option to inject you with something far more unpleasant if you don't cooperate, but..." he gave a shrug, "There is no need to kick up a fuss."

Wolfgang didn't respond. Nomi was pacing around the drone, listing possible weaknesses. The humming noise it made had begun to root itself in his ears, like a worm, insidious, burrowing into his thoughts.

Wolfgang smiled politely.

The Representative smiled back.

Alright.

Wolfgang adopted a position of ease. He would play for a little while.

"Wolfgang," began Nomi, whose alarmed tone clearly showed that she suspected what his choice would be. "Wolfgang, I wouldn't..."

Never breaking eye contact or letting his smile droop Wolfgang put the pill in his mouth and swallowed. The Representative nodded approvingly. Nomi vanished disapprovingly.

"Good choice. But," and he pulled a sheaf of paper from the inside pocket of his suit, "You were always the kind of person who preferred to do the big things on your own."

"What is this?" Wolfgang nodded at the paper. The man gestured that he should take it. Wolfgang did and cautiously unfolded it.

It was a list of names, a good number maybe thirty or forty: mostly German and Russian by the looks of them. Skimming down the page, three names caught his eye: Anton Bogdanow, Steiner Bogdanow and Sergi Bogdanow.

He felt as if he had been doused in ice water.

"I don't understand," Wolfgang kept is expression carefully neutral.

The Representative took a sip of water, "You don't remember the names of your own victims?" He shook his head, "I heard that was true of serial killers but," he made a series of gentle tsking noises that set Wolfgang's hair on end.

"Do you have a list of yours as well?"

The Representative smiled, "Casualties in the name of science, of course we remember them with great heaviness in our hearts, and gratitude for their sacrifice."

"Touching."

"Quite," the Representative took another measured sip of water, "But this, this is just efficient, the sheer volume, you must be very talented Mr. Bogdanow. My employers are impressed, we think perhaps you have even acquired, shall I say an appetite?"

"You have a point?" Wolfgang ground out. Perhaps the man was right; he had certainly imagined at least three inventive ways to kill him since he had entered the room. Unfortunately - and the drone bobbed up and down beside him as if reading his thoughts – none were good enough to get him past the door.

"We have uses for people like you, ones that have a very special skill set, the kind you possess. You would make a most valuable asset to our team."

Wolfgang began to laugh hollowly, "You have it the wrong way around, aren't you supposed to kidnap someone I love, not me? That is how the movie goes right?"

The Representative did not seem to be amused, but was also not angered by Wolfgang's mocking response.

"This is no joke, we are prepared to offer you a deal."

Wolfgang thought of Lila with a sudden burst of burning hatred. "I bet you are." He set the paper down on the table, "Let me guess, I find you some more zombie subjects and you let me and my cluster go? Exchange our safety for another's?"

"Most astute," The Representative picked up the sheet of paper and smoothed away a few minute creases. "But alas, no. Not in your case. Your cluster is problematic."

"Unfortunate." Wolfgang felt a fleeting burst of pride.

"Indeed. We are prepared to offer a second deal."

Wolfgang raised his eyebrows.

"We are well connected to the world governments," began the Representative delicately, running the sheet of paper between his fingers, "It is most awkward but with a rap sheet like yours we have enough to get you locked away in any high security prison we choose. For life," he added, almost as an after thought, "Many lifetimes really."

"I see."

"And of course, you will be, ah, medicated so as not to cause any undue problems."

"Why not lobotomize me?"

The man slipped the sheet of paper back into his breast pocket. "You are not a good candidate for the rehabilitation procedure, your face is too well known to certain crime organizations."

"I see."

"So, this can also disappear if –"

"- if I work for you."

"Exactly."

Wolfgang leaned back thoughtfully. "Do you know what I think?" he began, moving his gaze pensively from the ceiling to the man sitting in front of him.

The Representative smiled pleasantly.

"What?"

He was still smiling when Wolfgang kicked the table between them into his teeth.

Chapter Text

In an instant the drone was on him buzzing furiously. Wolfgang tried not to think like a wild animal, even though he felt like one, with that glassy scope and gun barrel aimed at him.

Remembering Nomi's indistinct rambling earlier he dove for the under carriage of the drone, tackling it to the ground and ripping at the wires underneath. Darts - red streamers fluttering behind them - thudded into the ceiling and walls as he grappled.

Be hind him he heard the Representative groaning and unsteadily regaining his footing. Unfortunately, the table was not very heavy, likely the reason that they had not bolted it down. Wolfgang charged him, holding the still active drone aloft like shield. The man screamed as he fell a second time, crumpling onto the floor.

Between his hands the drone gave a desperate whine and then went dead.

Wolfgang dropped it, and then went to investigate the fallen man. Other than the pillbox and the sheet of paper with Wolfgang's kills on it he was clean. Wolfgang felt a pang of disappointment, but it was not unexpected.

Fine. He would have to do this the hard way.

The cameras were too durable to be smashed by hand, but with the aid of one of the tranquilizing darts stuck in the wall he managed. He left the listening devices; there were too many of them and not enough time.

Stilling even his breathing Wolfgang listened as multitude of hurried footsteps converged outside the door.

A certain familiar feeling of dread filled him. After smashing the cameras, he hadn't fully thought out his next move.

The list was unexpected, even if the request was not, especially in the calculated nature of its attack.

No one but Kala and Felix had access to those particular fears. Only they could have could have known how that particular accusation, the acknowledgement that he was in fact a serial killer, would have hit him.

Only they could have known how the idea that he could never leave behind his kills weighed on him. The horror that thought entailed - the fear of being locked away for the rest of his life alone while Kala and Felix moved on with their lives - it was choking.

There was a reason he had learned how to escape things first: how to crack the toughest locks, how to sneak out windows and away from the flailing arms of men twice his size.

It was only then, after he knew how to escape that he had learned to fight.

Lila wouldn't have known, Fuchs wouldn't have. Not even the rest of his cluster. Whispers... Had he already dug that deep? A shudder passed through him, he did not know how long Whispers had kept him on that table. How much of him that man had seen.

Time hadn't existed anymore once those paddles hit his chest. There was only pain and no pain and the drumbeat, the thought, even when nothing else mattered, even when it had all been flayed and raw: Keep them safe. Keep them safe.

Gritting his teeth, Wolfgang surveyed the mess of wires springing from the drone's underside. With a sigh he ran a hand through his hair, he now regretted taking the blocker; he could have used Nomi's help. Or Kala's, or even Will. He hadn't been so outnumbered since he had met his cluster.

Wolfgang began to pace, then caught himself. Carefully he sat back down in the armchair and began to think.

The unconscious man could be used as a bartering tool, but Wolfgang suspected he was disposable, otherwise he would not have been sent in to speak with him directly.

The other option was to wait. To give up. They would have to send someone in here eventually - they had been feeding him - so they didn't want him to starve to death. The reason they weren't storming in now was likely because they knew he was well and truly trapped in here. They likely expected him to give up.

He could speed up that process, he could call for help. Pretend it was all a mistake. Stick around try and glean more information that way.

The mere thought rankled Wolfgang. No. It was time for the offensive, enough playing nice. It really wasn't his strong suit.

Setting his teeth, and ignoring the stinging cuts on his hands Wolfgang set to opening the drone. He had to hold in another sigh, this time of relief as he did.

Despite it's high tech exterior, on the inside the drone was quite simple: a circuit board, the gun mounted at the front, and a battery.

A very large, very powerful battery.

Cracking his knuckles, Wolfgang went to work.

 

*** *** ***

Felix was starting to think that maybe this friend of Wolfie's wasn't so crazy after all. He had been justifiably skeptical, especially when he had walked into that warehouse.

He knew from experience, women that looked like that usually couldn't be trusted.

Like Lila: he had known approximately two seconds after laying eyes on her that she would be trouble. That woman was like a poisonous eel, her beauty worn as a warning sign. And if what Kala had said about her working for BOP (or whatever the fuck it was called) was true his suspicions were, as usual, correct.

Even Wolfie had known better than to show interest and Wolfie usually had all the discretion of a dog in heat when it came to partners.

Not that he was one to judge of course.

But shrouded in relative darkness, crouched behind a set of dumpster bins with Kala kneeling beside him, Felix was forced to revise his opinion. This one was new to deceit.

And even more disconcertingly, she seemed... sort of cute. Like a kitten or some shit: innocent.

Felix let out a low whistle through his teeth. If she truly was to Wolfie what she had implied she was then they were likely even more fucked than he had thought.

It had become clear to him in the six hours he had known her that Kala Rasal was even more trouble than Lila. Kala Rasal was unfortunately, the kind of woman that inspired nobility.

This was not a problem for him. He sure as hell didn't suffer from a hero complex, but Wolfie... Yep. Wolfie was well and truly fucked.

This was the kind of woman that men like Wolfie went and got themselves shot for, or, more specifically; kidnapped by shady government organizations and incarcerated for.

Fuck.

Why was his friend the biggest idiot in all of Berlin?

"Why are you whistling? Be quiet," hissed Kala nervously. She was wearing a ski mask but Felix felt her shoot him a disproving look.

Felix, who not wearing a ski mask, rocked back on his heels and shot her his most charming grin,

"You are awfully tense, especially considering this place belongs to your husb-"

Kala glared at him.

Even with the ski mask on she was somewhat adorable rather than fear inspiring. She would have to work on that.

Felix shut his mouth anyways; he didn't want to rib her too hard, especially since she had seemed to have this place in mind before he had even stipulated the terms of his conditions. He kind of wanted to discover what that was all about.

Marital dispute?

Probably, he thought eyeing the lump under her gloves where that ginormous engagement ring was straining at the fabric. Rich people were always fucked up like that.

There was this old proverb of Felix's stepfather's (who despite his many failings could be relied on for quotable sound-bites that were just credible enough to stick in the mind):

You don't know someone until you commit a crime together.

So here they were, well after dark, about to break into a branch of Rasal Pharmaceuticals.

"Are you coming in with me?"

"Hell no," Felix settled into a more comfortable kneeling position, "Sounds like a great way to get arrested. I'll drive the getaway car."

He was fairly sure she had rolled her eyes at him.

"You don't even own a car."

"Details," Felix waved an airy hand, he was secretly enjoying her stress; usually he was the one losing his shit while Wolfie ambled around, cool as can be.

"Great, so you just want me bring you something from inside?"

"Yep."

"And you are just going to wait here."

"Yep."

Kala sighed again, but without further hesitation and a surprisingly light step she had disappeared into the night. Felix assumed a more casual position once she was gone, lighting a cigarette and leaning against the wall.

This should be interesting.

*** *** ***

She had, of course, called ahead. She knew, technically, it was cheating, but it had been so simple.

Besides that is what she was now, a cheater, and a liar and a – Kala caught herself and slammed those thoughts back into the corner of her mind she had reserved for such things.

The darkest corner, well hidden, and behind several locked doors. Focus. She had to get Wolfgang. She needed Felix to believe her. And they both needed to get out of Berlin before Lila or BPO found them.

She was killing two birds with one stone: getting Felix to trust her and getting more blockers.

Now, she didn't want to raise any suspicion, so she had very casually called her old secretary in Bombay and asked for information on all the Rasal labs in Europe, in case she wanted to do some work while she travelled.

There were not many, Rasal was still primarily based in India and Africa, but several branches existed in Europe, including this small one in South Berlin (fortunately well out of the reach of Sebastian Fuchs).

Will and Nomi joined her as she slipped out of the shadows into the front awning. Kala was immediately hit by the tension radiating from them. Her blockers had worn off only a few minutes ago, leaving the safe zone they provided in case she needed help.

"What has happened?" she asked, freezing in place as she felt their anxiety.

"Wolfgang is on blockers again." Nomi sounded grim, "And they had a pretty scary drone on him."

"God," whispered Kala, "How badly did they hurt him?"

"We don't know," Nomi wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulders, "They hadn't hurt him at all before he took the blocker."

Kala almost opened her mouth to ask why we would take the blocker, but then shut it. She already knew the answer: Wolfgang thought he could handle it on his own.

She felt an all to familiar rush of fondness and irritation.

"Are the cameras down?" asked Kala, forcing her thoughts away from Wolfgang.

"Yes," Nomi was sitting at the rickety table typing away, "The doors are a problem however, they are on a closed loop system, you will have to hotwire them."

Kala groaned. Where the heck was Wolfgang when you needed him?

"It's ok," said Will, "I think that we can figure it out." Kala raised a skeptical eyebrow behind the ski mask, and Will grimaced, "I hope." He added, sounding less and less confident.

Riley who appeared to be nursing a headache on a sagging couch gave them an encouraging smile.

"Guys, I found a Wikihow article!" chimed in Amanita from the other end of the table.

Will and Kala shared a grim look.

 

*** *** ***

The bomb sucked.

Kala would have laughed at him. She would have, right after she yelled at him for being reckless.

Then she probably would have rolled her eyes at him, when he pretended it wasn't a big deal, and did that little thing where she chewed at her bottom lip - the thing she did when she was thinking. And then she would have come up with something brilliant: as per usual.

Fuck he missed her.

"What are you doing?" asked the Representative.

Wolfgang nearly jumped in surprise. He had forgotten about the other man. How long had he been trying to wire the damn battery?

The Representative eyed his slap-dash work, the battery tied to the doorknob. "That is never going to –"

"Piss off," muttered Wolfgang, smashing him resoundingly over the head with a leg of the coffee table.

He left the man crumpled on the floor and placed an ear to the door. They were being quiet, but he had excellent hearing, there were at least three people outside the door, all wearing boots.

Wolfgang clenched his jaw then lifted the remains of the drone, he had fashioned it into a shield of a sort. He hoped the rubber girders at the bottom were enough to protect him from the Tasers.

He hoped a lot of things. Mostly that he wouldn't die because he didn't know how to properly wire a bomb. Felix would be so pissed.

Connecting the two last wires he swiftly fell back, huddling behind the couch. There was silence and then –

He felt a vibration through the floor before he heard the noise. It was wholly unimpressive: a sizzle, a pop and then nothing. Wolfgang stood up to investigate.

He felt a rare grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. Well maybe Kala wouldn't be so disappointed. The battery had not exploded, but then he hadn't expected it to, they kind of built them not to do that.

Instead the wood all around the doorknob had splintered and singed. The locking mechanism now hung loosely around the charred casing of the battery.

Onto Phase 2.

Gritting his teeth, Wolfgang aimed a kick at the door.

 

*** *** ***

"No, no, no" moaned Nomi, "Will - it was the green one to the blue slot, not the other way around."

Kala put her head in her hands, or she would have, but Will currently had control over her hands, and had for the last ten minutes while he fiddled around in the lock box.

"Stop, stop," Lito appeared beside them, "I got this."

Will backed out of the way immediately, but eyed Lito with no small amount of suspicion.

Lito bent over the panel by the door, humming casually to himself.

He was wearing a pink lacy bathrobe and very little else. The visual would have made Kala laugh out loud if she wasn't so scared of being arrested.

A crisp beep drew her out of her thoughts.

Lito stood back looking self-satisfied.

Will let out an impressed huff.

"How did you learn to do that?" asked Will, not without a hint of envy.

Lito waved an airy hand and opened the door for them, ushering Kala inside. "I learned it for a part. I played a thief once, in a movie called –"

"- Liar," interjected Kala with a little grin, well hidden behind her ski mask. She had a very strong suspicion where he had picked up that little tick.

Lito winked, "Always."

Will caught his arm as Lito turned to go, "Hey, you have to be careful, you are supposed to be on blockers at all times."

Lito sighed and in an instance they were crowded into a tiny hotel bathroom, sunlight was pouring in from a frosted window and Kala could hear Hernando and Daniella laughing outside. A cup of water and the container of blockers were sitting on the counter.

"I hate them," whined Lito, swallowing the capsule anyways. "They ruin my creativity."

"I know," Will squeezed his shoulders, "Not much longer."

Lito met their eyes through the mirror. Riley had joined them too. Kala felt a tug at her heart, they had been so close for such a short time, and now they were isolated again, off living in little pockets of reality, hidden throughout the world.

Lito gave them a brave smile.

And then they were back in the lab, listening the hum of air conditioning echo through the lobby.

"Let's go," whispered Nomi, "We don't have too long."

 

*** *** ***

At once he hit a human body, predictably shrouded in a white HAZMAT suit.

Wolfgang dispatched of them quickly, the suit was a poor choice despite the extra armour it provided - it made the guards ungainly.

Electric humming filled the air beside him and put his hair on end, but gritting his teeth harder he swung his makeshift shield at the source of the sound.

There were only three of them, Wolfgang delivered a hard kick to the groin and the first one was down. An efficient smack to head with the metal drone shell and a punch to the kidneys dealt with the other two. Wolfgang was throwing himself out the hallway door before the last body hit the floor.

The lobby was empty which sent off alarms in his head, but there wasn'tt much he could do but rush towards the glass doors at the end, effectively frosted so he couldn't see into the hallway.

The room was very mundane looking and the desk had a reception sign over it. He filed away that information carefully.

Wolfgang plowed through the glass door, his breath heaving through his chest, burning on the way out.

He froze.

He was in a public hospital no doubt about it, and in London, as a quick glance through the windows would reveal. Wolfgang would have felt a flash of gratification if his observations hadn't yielded one final piece of information.

Namely the large canisters of gas set up on either side of the narrow hallway, which had been sectioned off with a set of double doors.

Two guards in HAZMAT suits stood on either end. Wolfgang noted dimly that the crack under the door had been filled with white fabric.

Holy shit. In a public hospital? They wouldn't fucking dare.

In unison, the figures at either end of the hallway twisted the regulators on the canisters to fully open.

It was a small space. The effect was almost immediate. The HAZMAT suits made sense now.

Well, thought Wolfgang stupidly as he staggered towards the figures on the left, trying desperately to make it to the doors before the gas knocked him out, this was unexpected.

He felt his knees hit the tiled floor, and then darkness overtook him.

 

*** *** ***

If she made it out of this alive and un-arrested Kala thought she might have a real future in high-speed capsule manufacturing. The joy.

Her pack was now bulging with blockers, a supply big enough to last for months even if they had to be on them constantly. She had even made some in injectable form for Whispers and Jonas.

"How is it going with them?" she had asked Will as she hastily mixed powders.

Will sighed and rubbed his eyes, "Jonas has been somewhat helpful, but he doesn't really know much, and his information is out of date. Whispers –"

Will shook his head and then continued his vigil by the windows, "He has been giving us information, but I don't have a good feeling about it. I feel like we are being played." Will sighed again, "Maybe I am just paranoid. "

"Hmm," said Kala in a non-committal tone, with Will it really could be either. Wolfgang's abduction had not helped with their sense of anxiety and suspicion.

"All done." She announced.

"Good," Riley appeared, "Lets go."

Kala shook her head, "One more thing." They had passed the General Manager's desk on the way here, Kala now slipped into the large office, which had been left unlocked. There was an agenda there and tucked inside:

"A limited addition Rasal twentieth anniversary pen," whispered Kala triumphantly, "With the branch's address and the manager's name on it. For Felix."

"Won't they miss it?" asked Will a tinge of sarcasm in his voice.

"I don't think so, they're not very high quality..." Kala trailed off, the agenda had fallen open to the week's calendar.

There penned in neat ink, two days from now in the 1430 time slot was a name that made Kala's heart freeze:

Lila Facchini.

Chapter Text

"A pen!? A fucking pen?" Felix roared with laughter, nearly toppling off the end of his couch, and sloshing the beer on himself. "You got me a pen?"

Kala, who was holding her second beer and actually starting to enjoy it, nodded enthusiastically. "Of course, pens are very useful! And I wasn't going to get you any drugs..."

"Lame." Felix leaned over and poured out a shot from the half empty bottle of vodka sitting out on the coffee table. They had been sitting here, in his dingy little flat, for hours after Kala had returned from the lab. She swore she could see the edges of the sunrise peeking around the rows of apartments on either side of his living room window.

Neither of them had been able to sleep.

"It happens," Felix had muttered, sounding serious for once, as he led her into his flat. A new one, he told Kala as she wended her way through banks of shabby cardboard boxes, he had taken the precaution of moving after Wolfgang disappeared.

"What happens?" asked Kala distractedly. Her mind was racing: was Wolfgang alright? What on earth was Lila's involvement with Rasal Pharmaceuticals? Answers would not be forthcoming it seemed. She had taken a blocker as she left the building so she could only communicate with Nomi via her burner phone.

It was frustrating to say the least.

"After a heist, you get all antsy and then can't sleep - no matter how tired you are," Felix nodded sagely, "The best thing to do is have a few drinks, dance a bit, get it out of your system."

Kala, who hadn't decided if she trusted Felix with the information about Lila yet, had nodded mutely, and merely shifted her bag so he wouldn't be able to see how full it was.

Out of sight out of mind, she told herself. Whatever that meant. She just knew she didn't have the mental energy to deal with all the implications of the Lila/BPO/Rasal mess at two in the morning.

Felix had suggested a club, but Kala vetoed the idea, intent on staying low profile. So they had taken up residence in his half unpacked living room, Kala initially sitting stiff as a board on a fold up chair, but progressing steadily towards the floor as the night wore on. Felix sprawled expansively on the futon couch.

He had a way of putting people at ease, Kala realized, sometime after her second shot. Felix tended to bluntly speak his mind which reminded her of Wolfgang, but unlike the latter be never seemed intimidating or dangerous.

And he seemed to sense she was out of her comfort zone, way out of her comfort zone, light-years in fact, out of her comfort zone.

What alternate universe was she living in? She was sitting in some stranger's house, alone, without her parents knowing where she was, having just stolen from her husband's company. Who was this person? What was she doing drinking vodka? And knocking back cheap German beer? Whose life was this?

But for some reason she had felt immediately at ease, like she had known Felix her whole life. She was starting to suspect it was a sensate thing, like Wolfgang's fondness for Felix had somehow rubbed off on her. Without that, it was pretty clear how different their world was from hers.

"Are you any good at dancing?" asked Kala, suddenly feeling homesick.

She missed her world. How long had it been since she had listened to music with her sister? They used to have a monthly tradition where they would dance along to their favourite musicals in front of the TV downstairs.

Felix had a TV but it was currently playing a football game on mute: Germany vs Belgium.

"Fuck no," Felix chuckled, "But I am better than Wolfie."

Kala grinned with him, but there was a little ache in her heart. Without thinking she pulled the sweater she had draped around her shoulders a little tighter. It smelt like like Wolfgang.

It was somehow something she had never thought of before: what he smelled like.

Logically, it made sense. The connection only really picked up on the things that the person could notice about themselves or their surroundings. Something like the scent of the laundry detergent Wolfgang used, or the deodorant he wore wouldn't be something he would notice, in the same way she didn't notice the scent of her perfume after wearing it all day.

But she had known the sweater was his as soon as she touched it. Unbidden, Angelica came to her mind, Angelica who after death had not fully departed, but scattered, her consciousness like breadcrumbs left behind to mark the places she had been. As if parts of her had adhered to those objects she had once come into contact with.

Kala wondered if it would be the same for her after she died. If she would not be reborn, but fragmented, living as an echo in everything and everyplace she had visited.

Save Felix, she repeated to herself, stop BPO with his help, save Wolfgang.

"Go ahead and grab a sweater or whatever," Felix had shouted from the kitchen, where he was poking at a coffee machine. It had started raining on the walk over to his flat, and Kala was shivering violently in the cool air of the apartment.

Following the direction of his vague wave, Kala wandered into his disaster zone of a bedroom, where despite the general untidiness, an impressive collection of sweaters hung in the closet.

At once memories that were not hers, memories of Felix dragging Wolfgang from shop to shop for hours floated through her mind. Kala wondered at that, she was on blockers, how was she able to know things that only Wolfgang did? But as always with the sensate situation, there was no answer forthcoming.

She knew Felix liked clothes though. That was cool. She could respect that. She even let out a snort of amusement as she thumbed past a Christmas sweater featuring a chain of mating reindeer.

At the back of the closet was a pile of plain black and grey clothing. She felt something twinge in her heart, like a half remembered song, and with far more ceremony than the moment called for she very gently picked up the first article of clothing; a soft grey hoodie.

For some stupid reason she started crying, and then laughing a little bit because, for gods sake she was she crying over a sweater. She really needed to sleep: she was becoming hysterical. But then but then she realized, with a jolt so abrupt she nearly dropped the article of clothing that it was more than a sweater.

It was proof.

Proof of existence: her first real, physical piece of evidence that he was real. As foolish as it sounded, there was still a small part of her that hadn't believed. The scientist in her needed evidence, and now it was here, in her hands. It could not be avoided.

Moving very carefully again, and trying not to feel like some kind of pervert, she examined the article of clothing, catching the worn places at the wrists with the pad of her thumb reverently, as if discovering a new planet; uncharted territory.

And then before she could help it she buried her nose in the fabric, inhaling the scent of smoke and cheap laundry detergent, there was a hint of cologne in there too, and something sweet - mint perhaps.

Wolfgang.

Felix, embarrassingly found her like that: kneeling on his bedroom floor, face hidden in Wolfgang's sweater.

"Ah," she heard him clear his throat awkwardly, "Yeah, Wolfie left some of his stuff with me, in case he needed to change or anything."

"Sorry," replied Kala, because there really wasn't much else to say.

Felix merely shrugged, "Help yourself, I am just surprised you found it in all the mess."

Kala shrugged, and slipped on the hoodie, bundling up her wet hair on her head, "Seemed like something he would wear."

And Felix, to his credit, didn't press the matter.

He was looking at her with more curiosity now however, now that they had both had a few drinks. Kala wondered if she had fallen victim to a classic interrogation blunder: get the suspect drunk.

"Sooo," hummed Felix, he had a ball of some sort in one hand which he kept bouncing off the ceiling, "Where did you two meet?"

At my engagement party, thought Kala. "Um, at a club," lied Kala, "Karaoke night, we did a duet."

Felix looked surprised, "He must have been beyond plastered to get up there and sing, or –" and he waggled his eyebrows at her, " – You must have been very convincing."

Kala ignored her warm cheeks and sent him a disapproving look.

"This recent then?" Felix suddenly seemed a lit more lucid, and Kala's suspicions were confirmed: it was an interrogation.

Kala accordingly gave a non-committal shrug.

Felix didn't let it slide, "Because if it was longer term, I think I would have found out about it, Wolfie isn't half as slick as he pretends to be."

Despite herself Kala let out a reluctant laugh, "It is new-ish." She couldn't help glancing down at her wedding ring, glinting on her hand, "Things are a bit complicated."

"He knows you are married then?" Felix asked it more as an afterthought than anything. Kala repressed a sigh; spending time around all these people with questionable morals was probably not good for her. They were making her think what she was doing was normal.

"Yes." She sighed, "He was even at my wedding."

"Kinky."

Remembering a naked soaking wet Wolfgang appearing in front of her Kala bit her lip hard to prevent herself from laughing. "More than you would think."

"Does your husband know?"

Kala shook her head.

"Will he ever know?"

"Yes," She couldn't meet his eye, "I am planning on leaving him." The last part came out as a whisper; she had never said it out loud before.

"Mm," Felix switched TV channels, it was some old action movie now, he seemed to be figuring out how to phrase something.

"You know Wolfie isn't really husband material right?"

There was an edge to his voice, both jocular and protective.

"There won't ever be that kind of life for him, don't think," mussed Felix, and perhaps he was more drunk than he seemed, to be telling her these things, "Not for either of us, no house in the suburbs, with flower pots and doilies and a little Fredrick and Anna in matching baby bonnets, we are both too fucked up for that."

"Not that it is my business," he added belatedly, "But I don't know how much he has told you –"

"Everything." Interjected Kala, "He had told me everything."

Felix let out an impressed whistle, "Shit, things are serious then."

Kala nodded and this time she rather clumsily poured herself a shot. "We have a connection," she said at last. "It could not be denied."

Felix scrutinized her for a long moment, and for a moment she wondered if he suspected something. But then he snorted, "Sounds like a line from a fucking romance novel."

Kala snorted too, "It does," and it helped that the alcohol was burning down her throat, chasing away her sadness. "It really does."

"So," Felix was back to his energetic self, scooting to the edge of the futon so he could meet her eye. At this point Kala was sitting on the floor on a litter of mismatched cushions. "You know everything then?"

"Just the important things," she amended, "He told be about that one time when you were kids, when you hit a bully with a steel pole."

"Ah yes," Felix grinned fondly, "Weeell, it wasn't just one time."

"Of course not."

"Did he tell you about the time that I found him in nothing but a sailor's hat and a thong wandering about the Tiergarten?"

"No," Kala felt an unexpected bubble of laughter begin to grow in her. "Funnily enough he didn't tell me that one."

"Shocking. What about the time he accidentally tried to pick up his fifth grade teacher at a club?"

Kala firmly biting her lip shook her head.

The light in Felix's eye was gleeful bordering on demonic.

"Again, shocking, hmm, what about the time he gave himself a black eye trying to learn how to juggle bowling pins... or, ooh, ooh, the time he got attacked by a swan because he was trying to pet it because it was so pretty?"

Kala bit even harder down on her lip. Felix affected an air of nonchalance.

"What about the time he bought a fake plant and then watered it for a solid six months because he thought it was real, or what about the time he forgot what the word for –"

"- No, no, no and no" Kala interrupted finally giving into laughter.

Felix shook his head in mock disappointment. "I don't know what kind of relationship you think you have, but clearly you barely know the man."

"Clearly," Kala tried to bite back her amusement.

Part of her wanted to respect Wolfgang's privacy, but the other part... "A sailor's hat and a thong?" she inquired, giving in without much resistance, "How did that happen?"

Felix grinned like a cat that just got a whole carton of cream, "While you see, it began with a this giant Australian named Pete..."

*** *** ***

Sun was not sure of many things these days, a fact that disturbed her considerably, but she was sure of one thing: she was sick of the scheming.

This is what had driven her to the kickboxing ring in the first place. When she had joined her father's company, when he had given her a position of such prestige, she had told herself it would be enough. That she would no longer need to fight, that her life could move on.

But she had hated it: every minute, the scheming, the lies, the oblique slights of hand that went with business. She had been good at it, but it had drained her soul, sucking her dry and empty.

It was much better to have an enemy. Much simpler to face him as an equal and destroy him. Honorable. Clean cut. Black and white. Winner and loser.

But now, now her enemy was sitting in the basement, and they couldn't touch him because he had information. And her other enemy was in Seoul, and untouchable. She had done what felt like the right thing for both, and yet the desired result was not forthcoming.

Riley looked up from her heated conversation with Will and Nomi, at the other end of the table.

"Go to sleep Sun," she said kindly, "We'll need you to take the next shift, when Wolfgang gets in touch."

Sun nodded blankly, she was surprised that they were going to let her off blockers, but also not about to complain.

She could visit Capheus while waiting in the closet. He always made her feel better.

Or perhaps she would see Kala if she were somewhere safe. Kala who for some reason she felt the closest to right now, maybe because they both missed Wolfgang, albeit for different reasons. Things would be so much clearer if he were here. Or even, heaven help her, even Lito would be welcome company.

She was feeling as if she had left one prison only to enter another.

Sun stretched her arms out behind her as she climbed the stairs, trying not to make them squeak too much as she heard Will Facetiming the others from the closet.

It was too early to sleep, but perhaps she would workout. There was a makeshift gymnasium at the other end of the complex; she and Will had used it once or twice.

However, even as this thought crossed her mind, the burner phone in her pocket began to ring. Sun jumped about a foot in the air. She had forgotten she even owned it. Nomi had given it to her a few days ago.

Only she knew the number. Which begged the question...

"Hello?" asked Sun cautiously, and somewhat against her better judgment.

"Ms. Bak? Is that you?"

Sun nearly dropped the phone. Was that? No. It couldn't be. How would he have gotten the phone number? And last she had checked, and she did check more often than she wanted to admit, he was unconscious in the hospital.

"Who is this?" she replied.

"It is you." The voice on the other end sounded relieved, but also rushed. "It is Detective Mun, I wanted to see if you were alright. Are you somewhere safe?"

"How did you get this number?"

There was a surprised pause on the other end of the line. "You texted me a few hours ago, on my work phone. I am sorry it took so long for me to answer, I was in a CAT scan..."

His voice trailed off as she removed the phone from her ear to scroll through the recent messages. Sure enough there was a text, oddly worded, since Nomi had no doubt used Google translate for the Korean, explaining that this it was Sun and he was to call her as soon as possible.

Nomi. That sneaky little –

"Are you still there?" Mun sounded concerned, "Joon-Ki didn't hurt you did he?"

Sun couldn't help but scoff at that, "As if he could."

"You aren't bulletproof,"Mun reminded her. "Anyways I wanted you to know that I have given my statement to the police, and we are continuing with the investigation. It is difficult however, your brother has friends in high places."

"Park Tae," ground out Sun. She was seriously starting to regret not killing Joon-Ki when she had the chance.

"Amongst others," Mun sounded harried; "They are placing me in witness protection. I won't be able to contact you for a while. But I wanted you to know that we haven't given up. And -" Sun heard him swallow nervously, "- I am looking out for you."

Sun almost wanted to laugh, who did he think he was?

Last time he had tried to protect her he had nearly died. And for what? His idea of justice? A stupid infatuation leftover from when she had defeated him years ago?

It was foolish. He was foolish. There was definitely no reason for the sudden rush of warmth in her cheeks at his words. And the homesickness in her chest; it wasn't for him, it was for Korea, for the food, for the language, and her dog,

"Look out for yourself, Detective," she replied, but it came out softer than she intended, and even after he ended the call she stood staring at the phone in silence.

Downstairs she heard her cluster burst into another volley of intense discussion. Should they take the offensive or the defensive? Should they wait for Wolfgang or to act on the information they had gotten from Whispers and Jonas? More planning, scheming, and always talking, more talking.

Sun just wanted to hit someone.

Chapter Text

They fit together exactly as well as he suspected they would.

Exactly as he had dreamed they would for the better part of a year.

Those dangerous, sinful, dreams he tried to forget. Dreams that would transport him to a place he couldn't be, to sheets that were far too light and expensive to be his, her warm body beside his fast asleep. Oblivious. Or so he hoped. Deep down he feared the connection would not allow even him that small mercy.

Yet, even though he told himself he was ready for this moment he was taken aback.

Even though it had felt like an eternity since he had first seen her in swirling blue and silver, far too bright and clean to belong to his reality, the gravity of the moment left him unprepared.

Because how could he have known?

He wasn't even sure she had comprehended the extent to which she had affected him.

How could she?

All words and rational thought had abandoned him soon as she had reached for him. He had cracked open somehow, as if she had reached on either side of his ribcage and laid him bare.

It was effortless destruction, with only an indrawn breath, the faintest flutter of her eyelashes and he already knew that this was the end.

There wouldn't be anyone else to follow her. How could there be?

The certainty of that knowledge shook him to the core, but she just smiled as she watched him lift her nightdress up her thighs. As broken things were rattling around in his lungs, as he pushed into her. Still she watched him, so trusting: completely fearless.

He had wanted to tear right through that dress of hers and touch skin, fully explore her as he had wanted to for so long. He might have tried, but she had taken all the strength from his hands, smoothed them until they could only stroke, the softest brushes, and shake in hers.

How could she have known that she had smashed him to pieces without even trying, just by being there?

And how could she have known that with the gentlest kiss to his forehead as he lay in her arms afterwards - sticky and probably crushing her – how could she have known that with that simple touch she had made everything whole again?

Perhaps it was just wishful thinking, but for a moment it felt as if she were beside him again. Smiling at him through the sunlight sluicing through a pair of poorly hung curtains.

They were cramped together on a futon couch, Felix's futon couch, he would know it anywhere and she was wrapped in his second favorite grey sweater.

Kala, he wanted to whisper, but he knew he was dreaming, and he couldn't figure out how to move his mouth yet.

"We are coming for you," she murmured, and he felt her hands wrap around his shoulders, steady as could be. "Don't be afraid."

Then he felt her lips on his, so terribly soft and giving, with just the faintest taste of vodka, which was odd but not unpleasant and then he was gone.

 

He woke to the taste of blood in his mouth, which was entirely unpleasant.

He also woke to see the bruised and disfigured face of the Representative leaning over him, which was momentarily gratifying, but then depressing because that meant he hadn't gotten out.

"I would like to speak to Mr. Gorski," began the Representative, as soon as Wolfgang's eyes had fully opened.

In an instant Will was by his side. To his surprise so was Sun, fists clenched and a hungry look on her face.

That he understood.

"Changing of the guard," muttered Will in his ear. "That was reckless, what you did earlier."

Wolfgang let his face split into a bloody grin.

"Piss off," he told the Representative.

The Representative ignored this, and pulled a sheet of paper from his breast pocket. Wolfgang noticed he was wearing a different suit. All cleaned up. He must have been unconscious for at least a few hours then.

"To Mr. Gorski," he began to read.

"I am disappointed in you."

Will, Sun and Wolfgang all smirked. The Representative ignored him and continued.

"Imprisoning me in some shack in Northern England, thinking that I am not on a leash myself. Thinking that you can use weapons that I created against me."

Wolfgang's two cluster-mates froze.

Wolfgang felt dread begin to churn in his gut.

"Although it has been a pleasure to meet Mrs. Rasal, and no doubt we will get along very well, even if the rest of your cluster is somewhat contrary."

Wolfgang shoved Will into the corner of the closet, the closet he now knew was somewhere in Northern England. "What the fuck were you thinking?" he hissed, "You got her involved, you fucking –"

Will ripped his shirt out of Wolfgang's fists and threw open the closet doors, sprinting downstairs.

Nomi's computer was open and running on the table, on the screen live surveillance footage of the two prisoners downstairs.

Jonas was sleeping, curled in a defensive ball, but Whispers was awake, sitting straight up against a pillar.

His eyes met the camera with an amused flick.

"- The deal is this, Mr. Gorski: return me to the Parliament Facility within 48 hours and turn yourself in. In exchange, we will let this one go, mostly intact. "

They were pulled back to the room Wolfgang was in, to the bed he was strapped to. The Representative tucked the paper away. "From: Milton Gibbons. "

"Why?" breathed Will, "If you know so much why not just take us all?" He turned to Sun and Wolfgang, "We have him on blockers, how could he do this?"

Before Wolfgang could stop him Will was barreling down the stairs, kicking a few doors out of the way.

He had Whispers by the throat before Wolfgang has even begun to follow. Sun wisely hung back, keeping out of view.

"What the fuck do you think you are playing at?" his cluster-mate snarled into the man's face.

Whispers smiled, "They are afraid of you now Mr. Gorski. They are now willing to allow me my little games."

Will punched him hard in the face, and Whispers slumped unconscious on the floor.

"Get moving," he ordered Sun through the side of his mouth, "We have to assume all the information he has given us is useless now. We go with the second plan."

Wolfgang watched Sun nod curtly and then rush out of sight. His mind was racing.

"He knows something about the blockers that we don't,"

Will nodded but did not look up; he was systematically ripping cords out of their sockets and coiling as he made his way out of the basement. "He can resist them or control how they work."

"We need Kala," Will agreed, pulling a duffel bag from underneath the kitchen table and shoving the cords into it.

Wolfgang seized him firmly by the shoulder, forcing his cluster-mate to make eye contact. "You lied to me before, I trusted you to keep her safe."

Will swallowed, but held his ground, "She is tougher than you think. Kala can deal with things herself. Besides she is with Felix now, she is in good hands."

He felt some modicum of relief at that, but Wolfgang tightened his grip on Will's shoulder.

"Do not fucking turn yourself in, no matter what they do to me. Take blockers. I don't care. Save yourselves, go into hiding."

Will opened his mouth, but Wolfgang was abruptly dragged back to his location where the representative was gone and people in HAZMAT were wheeling back in the modified defibrillator.

 

Wolfgang refused to let his face betray a twitch of fear. He forced his mind back to Will.

"I don't have time to argue," Seizing the bottle of blockers on the countertop he shoved it into Will's hand, "Go. Keep them safe. "

Will grabbed his arm tightly, "We are with you."

Wolfgang gritted his teeth as the machine whirred to life.

"Go!"

 

*** *** ***

"Are you ok?" asked Felix, waving a hand in front of Kala's face.

They were browsing the shelves of a grubby little corner store just outside of the train station. Both were incognito, wearing sunglasses and hats.

In an hour, the train they were waiting for would take them back to Will and the safe house where Felix's expertise would no doubt be put to use.

She still hadn't told him about Lila. She wasn't sure what to make of it yet. That morning, blinking off the remains of a hangover, she had done some digging with Nomi into the connection with Rasal Pharmaceuticals. Thus far they hadn't found anything.

In all, Kala was proud of her discretion; she had managed to explain her cluster and the nature of the situation in a vague yet non-threatening manner so that Felix would leave Berlin with her.

Kala shook herself out of her reverie, "Yes," she whispered, for a moment she had felt a stabbing pain in her chest, but now it was gone.

She rubbed the spot over her sternum absently, it couldn't have belonged to anyone else; she was on blockers. Still a worried thought for Wolfgang crossed her mind.

She had dreamt of him that morning, his face bloodied and raw, his stubble overlong; so far removed from the smirking demon that had once appeared naked in her bed.

At that moment her burner phone began to ring.

*** *** ***

Will was uncharacteristically panicky as he drove the van down a series of bendy backcountry roads.

Sun just sat behind him and Riley in the backseat, watching the unfamiliar landscape rip by.

Kala's voice crackled and wavered through the Bluetooth. Her voice was shaking, but Sun was pleased. There had been no tears when Will had filled her in about Wolfgang's failed escape attempt, only steely determination.

"- I told you I didn't know all of its properties, or even how they worked in full. I know almost nothing about our neuro-anatomy. It is possible he could have found some way to develop resistance."

"But wouldn't you be able to connect back? Visit him?" asked Will, taking a sharp left onto yet another narrow tree lined road.

"No necessarily," interjected Riley suddenly, "The monk, I couldn't visit her."

Nomi poked her head up from beside her. "Can you figure out a way to contact her?"

Riley shrugged, "I will be off blockers in a few hours, but I have a feeling that she can keep me away if she wants."

Nomi chewed a lip. Beside her Amanita looked confused, but seemed to be rolling with the punches as per usual. Sun admired that about Nomi's fiancée, she didn't waste anyone's time. She just jumped right in.

"Hold on, a monk in Amsterdam?" Amanita started digging in the bags at her feet for Nomi's tablet. "Given the short term notice for Riley's concert she can't have come from that far – maybe we can look for monasteries in the area."

"Buddhist monasteries in Amsterdam?" Will sounded doubtful.

"It is worth a try," Nomi kissed Amanita on the cheek and took the tablet from her.

The speaker crackled, "What about Wolfgang?" asked Kala.

"I don't know," Will took one hand off the wheel to scrub his eyes, "He was pretty adamant on us not saving him."

A loud series of crackles and some scuffling could be heard from the other end of the line, and then a voice coloured with a thick German accent and more than a little bit of sarcasm came on.

"And since when has it been a good idea to listen to Wolfie?"

"Felix!" said Nomi in surprise.

"The one and only," his smirk was audible, "Look I don't want to know what kind of weird medical government conspiracy bullshit you are all in, and Kala insists on lying to me about it which is adorable - but I do know that Wolfie rarely does what is best for him."

"Do you think you can help?" asked Will, slightly dubious. Kala could be heard on the other end stuttering a little.

There was an insulted pause, and then, " Do I think that I can –" Felix sputtered incredulously. "Huh, I see how it is. Well then, Officer 'Merica, yes I do. Now give me everything you have on him and 24 hours, then we will see if you can help."

*** *** ***

Felix was cackling as he hung up the phone. Kala just stared at him in shock. Things were not processing in her mind as well as she would have liked.

In the back of her head, sitting next to the dark guilty thing that had lead her to torture Whispers, was the piece of her that ached for Wolfgang. That was terrified for him. That wanted to tear everyone at BPO from limb to limb for harming him.

This last thought unnerved her slightly; she had always thought herself a pacifist.

A pacifist with bad days, she corrected, thinking back over the last year.

"What? You found me because you wanted my assistance." He shrugged and grabbed handful of pre-made sandwiches.

Kala closed her mouth before opening it again, "24 hours? Are you sure?"

Felix sighed, and then handed the bored looking woman at the register a fistful of change, "Look, you might not have noticed it but Wolfie tends to be a little on the reckless side sometimes –"

" – Oh I noticed," interjected Kala, picking up a sandwich and following Felix out of the shop. He had gotten her a vegetarian one. In a less dire time she would have smiled.

Felix did smile as he turned back to make sure she was following, but it was a bit manic. "Well let's say I have a little experience with on the fly heist planning."

Kala nodded, following him into a graffiti covered alleyway and through a half open steel gate.

Felix's knowledge of the city was enviable. He moved about it with absolute ease, so much so that Kala had long since given up tracking his route and just followed blindly struggling slightly to keep up with his long strides.

Her next words had him stopping dead however.

"I want to kidnap Lila Facchini."

Chapter Text

Felix had her flattened against a wall before she even finished the sentence while he looked about nervously.

"You can't just go about saying that stuff in public," he admonished her before finally releasing her arm when he deemed the coast clear.

"Sorry," Kala muttered, smoothing the wrinkles out of her shirt.

The echo in her head that had known him for years wondered when Felix had gotten so paranoid. Probably after his best friend had been kidnapped by a shady government organization – Kala reminded herself.

"I do though," she continued rushing to keep pace with Felix, who was turning down yet another narrow street, tearing into his second sandwich.

He sighed around his sandwich, "Look I get your little revenge fantasy, but we kind of have enough on our hands without a side quest, ok?"

"No," replied Kala, finally unwrapping her sandwich and smothering the irritating voice in her mind, the voice that belonged to old Kala, that told her eating while moving at this clip was really a bit of a choking hazard. "I have an idea."

*** *** ***

For the third time in less than two days Felix was forced to reassess his opinion of Kala Rasal.

He had come to the conclusion that he was right the first time. She was in fact batshit crazy.

He watched her even now, peering over the lid of his laptop, as she paced around his apartment, occasionally picking up a half empty box and stacking it more neatly.

She was alternating between talking incessantly into a Bluetooth earpiece and staring avidly into space.

That wasn't the crazy part.

The crazy part was that it wasn't turned on.

He was fairly sure she didn't know he knew that. He was also fairly sure that she thought he hadn't noticed that when she wasn't staring into space she was conducting an entire conversation.

By herself. In at least two languages. In one long sentence: like - 'Hi Kala, Bye Kala, Do you think we should get another Glock for this excursion Kala? Why yes Kala what a great idea Kala!'

That was not to say the plan wasn't good. It was pretty damn genius he had to say, especially given the time crunch. She seemed to have a whole team of people behind her, including a cop, which made Felix's skin crawl, and a hacker. But still...

Wolfie, he thought, imagining sending his words out into the universe and to his hopefully very intact brother. I don't blame you because she might be the most beautiful woman I have ever met, but she is also the craziest, and don't forget I knew your mother.

"You ready?"

Kala stood in front of him with an expression of grim focus and Wolfie's gun clutched uncertainly in her right hand. Felix noted that at least she had the sense to keep her finger off the trigger.

The bottle of ominous looking black pills she kept taking sat unopened on the counter beside her.

Felix nodded slowly, and then jerked his head in the direction of the pills, "What are those for?"

Kala smiled sweetly, "Allergies."

Felix stifled a snort. Still a shit liar though. There was that at least.

*** *** ***

Wolfgang wasn't sure this time how long he had been unconscious this time. That was not good. Or maybe it was good. He wasn't sure of much of anything anymore.

They didn't ask questions this time. There were no medications. No blockers, no DMT, just the people in the suits and the electric paddles, and the pain.

Always pain.

He had thought of her at first, like he had last time. He didn't even think her name, that wasn't safe, but he thought of the trails that raindrops made as they trickled down her face, warmth, yellow, cloves and cinnamon, anything about her really. But even that had been driven from his mind. Now he just wanted the pain to end.

And then, almost as if in answer to that thought, she was there.

Wolfgang flinched instinctively, no she had to stay away; they were going to hurt him again. She had to run. He almost said it out loud - Run, Kala!

But her thoughts admonished him, and he found himself standing next to her, leaning against a brick wall. She was in Berlin. Why was she in Berlin? He started to croak out a warming, but she placed two fingers to her lips.

Desperation solidified in his veins. He wanted to pull her into his arms, but he was so weak he wasn't even sure if he was fully with her. It felt like he was watching a movie, not his own life.

This certainly looked like a scene from a movie, he dimly noticed.

It was impossible to focus, she wasn't safe - he had to do something.

Instead of being useful his aching eyes chose instead to skitter around the scene. They were outside some sort of private gym. The alley was empty.

Kala was wearing his leather jacket – his chest gave a weird spasm at that - and a pair of tight black jeans; she had his gun in a shoulder holster. Wait what?

You are hallucinating, the rational part of his mind explained.

Well, then. Insanity was looking pretty damn good.

The door to the gym swung open, Lila walked out slightly flushed and an impeccable white dress.

Wolfgang ground his teeth together. Never mind. He'd take the paddles.

Kala however gave a very uncharacteristically predatory smile as the other sensate's eyes fell on her. Lila jumped in shock.

Kala wiggled her fingers in a sarcastic approximation of a wave.

"Hi, bitch," said Kala leveling his gun at Lila's face.

Several things happened at once all.

Firstly, he watched Felix appear from the shadow behind the door, syringe in hand, face grim, as he snuck up from behind wrapping his arm around Lila's throat.

Secondly, Lila, faster than expected, made a desperate grab for something inside her purse.

Thirdly, that thing was a gun.

Fourthly, Kala (or was it Sun?) executed a frankly impressive kick at the purse, but it was slightly too slow.

And then everything was moving too fast.

A shot rang out. Wolfgang went from being the most aroused he had ever been to being the most terrified. Pain, pain again, tore into his left shoulder.

And his hold on her snapped.

*** *** ***

Kala woke to the dulcet sounds of Felix cursing in her ear.

"What happened?" she asked blearily. Felix stopped swearing abruptly.

"Since when do you speak German?" he countered staring at her suspiciously.

Right. She hadn't taken blockers. Wolfgang was in there somewhere.

She noticed Felix was covered in a lot of blood.

"Uh," said Kala, numbness was spreading through her body, and the world felt distinctly fuzzy, not unpleasant though, just –

" – Am I on opiods?"

It was Felix's turn to stutter, "Uh yeah, sorry about that, but I um figured it was better than the alternative."

"The alternative?" Kala felt dread begin to settle over her.

It was all coming back to her. Lila. Wolfgang - distant and incoherent. A gun firing. Pain. Kala gasped and shot to her feet. She turned her head to look at her left shoulder.

"Easy," Felix held her steady by the knees. Her shoulder was dressed and tightly bandaged, her arm wrapped up in a tubular sling.

"Felix," Kala began unsteadily.

"Yeah, yeah," He muttered waving aside her thanks, "It was just a nick, nothing serious, I am shit at stitching though so you will have a scar."

"How did you –"

Felix eyed her with fond exasperation, "It is like you haven't even met Wolfie." He deadpanned.

"Oh, right." Kala made to stand, the world swirled gently.

"I gave Ms. Pissy-and-Neapolitan the shot you told me to," he said rising from the floor to join her when it seemed like Kala would remain vertical. She is tied up in the bathtub."

"Great!" Kala tried to rein in her euphoria. Scientifically, she should be recording these side effects. "What did you give me? Heroin? Morphine? How many milligrams? This is incredible."

"Some oxy that I had lying around from after my surgery, I might have over done it though. Look, Kala chill, you are starting to concern me."

"Oxycodone." Kala gave an experimental wiggle. "I've never taken oxycodone before. Well, " she thought of Riley's extensive experimentation, "Not first hand at least."

Felix looked momentarily perplexed and then shook his head dismissively.

"Great." He snapped his fingers in front of her face, "Crazy gang-boss assistant in bathtub, Wolfie in mortal danger, time crunch – remember?"

"Focus," murmured Will, grasping her firmly about the ribs, "You can push past it."

Kala took a few deep breaths, the room lost some of its shine; she started to feel vaguely nauseous, "Sorry," she muttered to both of them.

Felix's expression softened slightly, "You did good Kala." He gave her uninjured shoulder a squeeze. "We will do giggly drug trips next time ok?"

Kala managed to give him a disproving glare. Felix smirked, "Ladies and gents, she is back!"

Will shook his head, "Do you think the shoulder injury will effect the plan?"

"No," Kala made her way to the bathroom, leaving Felix to stand uncertainly in a pile of blood soaked towels. "Nothing will stop me now."

Lila was lying trussed up like a pig for slaughter in Felix's dirty bathtub.

A perverse part of her enjoyed this immensely. It was in fact that same part that took pleasure in dumping a bucket full of ice-cold water onto the woman's two thousand dollar Channel dress.

Such a shame.

Lila woke with a sputter and began thrashing around violently.

"Relax," said Kala dropping the bucket with a resounding clatter on the floor, "I don't plan on drowning you yet."

Wolfgang was still out of reach, he had fallen into some kind of unconscious stupor, but she still had access to his language. Useful since the shot she had given Felix contained blockers.

Lila glared at her, but didn't respond.

"Now, I want to get one thing straight," continued Kala, perching on the edge of the bathtub and leaning over as if they were having a friendly chat at a café, "I am not much into fighting over a guy."

She flicked a strand of hair out of Lila's left eye.

"It goes against my feminist morality, you see," Kala heaved a sigh, and then dug a switchblade from her pocket, Will flicked it open and closed confidently. It was difficult to balance one handed, but not impossible.

"And honestly Wolfgang and I are not particularly monogamous at the moment. So know that when I say this it is not from some misguided jealousy over you making a play for my man, or something equally ridiculous and demeaning. When I say this, I mean it."

Kala leaned even closer, Will snapped the blade open and closed a few more time, she watched Lila's eyes nervously track the movement with deep satisfaction.

Kala forced her gaze onto hers, the blade bumped against Lila's mandible.

"You are a monumental bitch."

Lila swallowed slightly, but her gaze didn't waver. Will brought the switchblade even more firmly to her cheek.

"Where is Wolfgang?"

Lila's eyes flickered to the switchblade and back. "You are making a mistake," she hissed, "You think that I am not being watched?"

Kala gave an unaffected smile, "It has been dealt with, don't worry. Let try again. Where is Wolfgang?"

"I don't know."

Will pushed the switchblade harder into her face.

"I don't! They are too careful."

Wolfgang was stirring at the back of her head; he was in terrible pain, Kala tried not to betray that in her body language.

"Ever heard of Rasal Pharmaceuticals?"

"No."

"Liar," Wolfgang was suddenly in her place, covered in sweat and dried blood, but with a glorious snarl on his face. Lila noticed the difference immediately.

"Oh hello," a catty smile was tugging at her lips, "Impeccable taste as always, Wolfie," She gestured at Kala's body, "it's a pity, we could have shared."

"No thanks, " snapped Kala.

"This was a reckless idea," whispered Wolfgang in her ear, and Kala couldn't help closing her eyes at the feeling of his arms wrapping around her middle.

"You would know," she whispered back, and she could feel him smile involuntarily into her hair.

"You need to get out of here before Fuchs or BPO –"

"I have it covered." Kala replied sternly, turning her attention away from Lila, to face him.

"Am I interrupting something?" cut in Lila lazily. Her chest was beginning to rise and fall rapidly.

Wolfgang executed a complicated looking knife flip and then pressed the blade into Lila's jugular.

"Rasal Pharmacuticals. And don't think that I won't bleed you like pig, because I will and I will enjoy it."

Lila rolled her eyes, sweat was starting to trickle from her forehead, mixing with the water, but answered anyways, "They supply the blockers to BPO, I have a friend there that sets a few aside."

"No," Kala was pacing up and down Felix's tiny washroom, while Wolfgang kept the knife pointed at Lila. "That's a lie, I approve all of our supply and R&D manifestos. I think I would have noticed if we were making blockers."

Lila's chest continued to rise and fall rapidly, Kala noticed her pupils suddenly begin to dilate, "What did you give me?"

Kala raised an eyebrow, "I don't know what you are talking about."

"You gave me some kind of drug, I don't feel right."

Kala waved a dismissive hand, "Wolfgang?" she indicated that he should continue the interrogation.

He pressed the knife back against her throat, and Lila screamed as if he had actually cut her. "They do it off the book! Ok? The new CEO has been cracking down on the production, so we have been having a harder time getting the drugs, but they package it as diabetes medication for BPO – please I don't know anymore, please stop hurting me!"

Wolfgang's eyebrows creased in confusion, because he was very clearly not hurting her. But luckily, he didn't comment.

Kala nodded to herself. She did remember seeing expense reports for shipments of diabetes medication sent to Europe. Not large amounts, BPO wouldn't need that much, but enough... And of course it had been almost too easy to construct her own blockers using the supplies in the R&D labs.

Absentmindedly she picked up a hand towel.

"To use as a gag," she explained to an increasingly bemused Wolfgang, "I have everything I need."

In the end, she needed to take off the sling to tie it on, but when she was finished Will and Wolfgang were standing over her, with a mixture awe and concern on their faces. Lila had stopped talking and was simply letting out a series of muffled shrieks.

"Don't worry," Kala shrugged, "It isn't permanent, I just gave her something to loosen her tongue along with the blockers."

Will looked even more concerned, but Wolfgang was giving her a look that could only be described as glowing.

"You need to get moving," he told her and the warmth in his eyes started to leech away as the gravity of the situation returned, "You have to leave here and hide," He turned to Will, "You promised you would keep them safe, nothing about this is safe."

"I can handle myself Wolfgang, " Kala picked herself up from the bathtub, and wincing slipped her arm back into the sling. A slight wave of vertigo hit her.

He opened his mouth as if to argue, but then stopped dead. A flash of dread crossed his face, and his eyes fixated on a point behind her. Kala turned to look, but he was rushing her towards the bathroom door.

"They are coming again, go, run please,"

"No," Kala was trying to push back, "No I am coming for you, Wolfgang –"

"I love you," he whispered. There was an awful finality in his voice. Then he was gone.

Kala blinked back tears, and fumbled around in the bag of toiletries she kept by the sink, locating another bottle of blockers. Will stood tensely beside her, holding his own blocker.

In the bathtub Lila moaned incoherently.

She and Will exchanged a silent nod as they each swallowed the black capsules.

"I will tell Nomi," Will promised, while they waited for the pill to take effect.

Distantly there was the sound of rolling equipment, paddles charging. Fear sickening and metallic growing in their mouth.

"Good." Kala squeezed his hand. "How many hours?"

"23 and counting." Will offered her a weak smile.

"Well then," Kala tried to inject some bravery into her voice, "I will see you on the other side."

 

Felix was leaning against the arm of his couch when she exited. The apartment was deadly silent except for Lila's muffled screams.

"Should I have invested in a body-bag?" he asked, eyebrows raised.

Kala handed him back the clean switchblade, "No need, I didn't actually hurt her, only made her think I had."

Felix's eyebrows raised even higher.

"There were hallucinogens in that shot as well as a few other things, all I had to do was raise her adrenaline and she began to lose it."

Felix let out a low whistle through his teeth, "I take it back about the drug trip. Jesus woman you don't look it but you are scary."

Kala gave him a humorless smile.

"You should sleep," he said indicating the couch, which he had piled with blankets to cover the blood from her shoulder wound.

Kala nodded. "What about you?"

Felix shrugged, " I am going to get some food. I heard the info as well as you the way she was shouting, we make our move tomorrow, now it's just the waiting game."

Kala nodded again and let Felix settle a blanket over her shoulders when she couldn't do it one armed. She was dead asleep within minutes.

*** *** ***

Hours later, when Felix returned to his apartment it was empty.

The door was locked as he had left it .Not a thing out of place inside. Nothing except the sawed off ends of rope in the bathtub, the discarded razorblade on the floor.

Both women were gone.

Without a second glance Felix walked out of his apartment and shut the door.

Chapter Text

Will called them as soon as Kala's blockers took effect.

Riley and Sun were standing underneath a tree eyeing up the monastery sticking out rather oddly amidst the more classic European architecture. Amsterdam was oppressively humid in the late July afternoon. The sky was a billowing purple.

"She is off the grid," Sun could hear Will's voice echoing as Riley held the phone up to both of their ears. "Next step is a go."

"Good luck," whispered Riley, nervousness reverberated between them. This was the most risky part of the plan.

"Can I talk to Sun?" asked Will suddenly before Riley could hang up.

Riley handed her the phone with a signature half-smile.

"Yes?" Sun had a vague idea of where this was going. Will was predicable like that.

"Protect her, promise me," Will's voice had turned desperate now that Riley couldn't hear him, "You have to promise to look out for her."

Echoes of her mother's voice float into her mind, but Sun shook her out of her head. The past was not doomed to repeat itself. He must be more uncertain than she had expected to ask her in that way.

"Worry about yourself," she told him calmly and reached for Riley's hand. Something in her cluster-mate's face told her she knew exactly what Will had done. "We protect each other."

And with that she hung up. Not a moment later, Nomi called them up. "Ready?" she asked.

"As ever," replied Riley, "and you?"

"Holed up just like you asked. " Sun had a mental image of the disgust on Nomi's face when they had saddled her with an unconscious Jonas Maliki in the safest safe house they could find.

Will had shot down all of Nomi and Amanita's protests at their lack of a role.

"If this works," he told them, "You will have the most important role, you and Capheus and Lito: you are needed to create the new world."

The moment had struck Sun. Not just because she realized the very real danger she was in, but because she realized at that moment how very much she wanted to live to see a world created by her cluster-mates. It would be a curious thing, if the story of the sensorium could be remade tomorrow by a hacker, a matatu driver and an actor. Sounded like the start of a myth. The tale of three dreamers.

Sun felt a little twist in her chest. Yes, no matter what happened next, these were the right people to protect. If all went well there would be no further need for a warrior.

As if she could read her thoughts, which Sun knew she couldn't because she was on blockers, Nomi made a comforting noise on the other end of the line.

"The boys send their love. They are ready too."

Sun nodded at Riley, and together, hands still clasped; they passed under the heavy arch of the monastery gates.

A monk, sweating in her red and orange robes was waiting for them within. They appeared to have been expected.

Without a word she ushered the pair past a pair of heavy wooden doors and into an office off the main hall, it was still stiflingly hot despite the extensive stonework. A small fan buzzing in the window did little to cool the air.

"She will be with you in a moment," and the monk gave a tiny bow and left the room.

Riley sighed anxiously and settled into one of the crumbling plastic chairs by the wall, Sun instinctively watched the door.

"Do you think she will help us?" asked Riley, as she had been asking almost every time she opened her mouth. "Do you think it will work?"

Sun shrugged and gave a comforting smile. It was the same comforting smile that she had been giving Riley every time she asked. "Action is better than inaction."

Riley seemed unconvinced but almost as if in answer to that statement, her phone started to ring in her pocket.

Sun carefully concealed her surprise. As far as she knew there were only two people that had access to that number.

"I'll answer outside," she said indicating the hallway, and slipping out swiftly after Riley nodded.

She didn't go far, just in case Riley needed her, but she suddenly felt defensive, as if she were hiding something shameful.

Which was ridiculous. She wasn't.

"Yes?" she asked as soon as the line began to hiss in her ear. The service here was unsurprisingly awful.

"Ms. Bak." Mun sounded immensely relieved. "Are you alright? No one has tried to hurt you? There have been rumours –"

"You should know better than to believe those," and Sun couldn't help but let a tiny hint of amusement enter her voice. Her eyes scanned the hallway; she could see a figure in orange approaching at a sedate pace.

He let out a surprisingly uninhibited laugh. It was a new sound. Sun decided she liked it.

"Of course, silly me."

"How are things going?"

"Fine," and he let out a sigh. For some reason she pictured him running his hands through his hair, or pacing quietly in a room somewhere, possibly still in uniform, the collar of his shirt slightly unbuttoned.

It would be hot in Seoul this time of year too, those that could would have retreated into air-conditioned office buildings or cafés. "Better than fine actually, I shouldn't complain."

Sun felt like there was a 'but' implicit in his words and wondered if she should ask about it. The monk approaching the room Riley was in paused and gave her a friendly smile, as she turned Sun caught sight of the twining branches of the tattoo on the back of her head.

She didn't close the door behind her so Sun remained where she was, but still on guard.

"Are you in protection?" she asked, and found that she was actually curious as to the answer.

"Yes," there was a soft click, like he was setting down a cup. "Again I shouldn't complain, but I am going insane in here. No one to talk to, barely enough room to do a basic warm-up let alone practice my forms."

"So you have been practicing?" asked Sun despite herself.

"Oh yes," and she could imagine the look on his face; it would be the same as in the graveyard - a little arrogant, a little teasing but mostly warm – inviting even. She had such little familiarity with warmth, at least before her cluster. Or prison. Even now she wasn't quite sure what to do with it.

"And what of my cellmates?"

"The one you escaped with?"

"Yes," Sun repressed her irritation as the phone line wavered and cut out. "And the other two, the ones that I shared a room with."

"They are well as far as I know." Mun sounded slightly perplexed, "The two you were with - they didn't even resist arrest. They almost seemed happy to be back. It was strange."

Sun couldn't help the laugh that escaped her, the choked thing it was.

Should she explain to him what she had learned there? Would he understand? Most likely not. He served the law, and the law served him. What would he know of an existence where the relationship was not reciprocal?

"Sun?" His voice drew her out of her thoughts. "Sun are you still there?"

"Yes." She said softly. "I should go."

"Yes, yes of course," he was poor at hiding his disappointment. She could hear it even through the static. Despite the darkness that had crept back into her thoughts she couldn't help but smile. There was something endearing about a man that wore his feelings on his sleeve, especially after the many deceptions of Joon-Ki.

"I called you for a reason," he continued, "We have not begun the trial yet, but it is an inevitability. I promised your brother would be brought to justice and I mean it. But you never told me if you would help. Will you come and give your story?"

That foolish sincerity again. Sun sighed.

"Will you throw me back in jail if it do?"

"Ah, well...yes temporarily, but I can prove you –"

"- I will go Detective," she cut in, and heard him stutter into silence on the other end. "You have my word."

"Thank you," he breathed. "Thank you, Ms. Bak."

"You can call me Sun."

It was a whim; she could allow him that familiarity at least. They had kissed after all. She knew what he tasted like, and how he moved when she threw a kick.

Never let it be said she wasn't grateful. And he was a decent fighter. Even if not the best she had seen, he had potential.

She hung up before she could say anything more.

Down the hall, Riley poked her head out and beckoned her over. There was a brightness in her cluster-mates eyes that hadn't been there before. Sun's thoughts immediately returned to the mission.

She raised a questioning eyebrow.

Riley slowly nodded in return.

*** *** ***

They were in a car. Not driving. The control was no longer theirs.

Kala remembered the first time that she had given a speech in class. She had been ten years old. What was it about? The ocean? Endangered otters? There was a critical moment there, the moment before.

The indrawn breath. The plunge. The point of no return. When she would open her mouth, the teacher would start the timer, the semi-silence of her seated classmates irrevocably changed.

Halfway through she might discover this was a mistake. She might stutter. She might forget her next sentence. The horrible boy in the second last row might call her that mean name he had come up with her last week.

She wasn't thinking clearly. They were in danger. They were in a trunk.

No. They were in the backseat. They had a gun to their head. The yellow streetlights through the car windows were running into a sickly golden streamer, caught on his overlong beard. He used to be so tidy. His hands shook, they did that now, but his eyes were as cold as they had ever been.

She should hit him. No, not her. That still wasn't her style. They should hit him. His hands weren't bound. They didn't need to be.

Kala was in the trunk. She was wrapped up so tightly she couldn't even move her hips.

There was something she needed to do. What was it?

Oh, Right.

Kala started to scream.

 

*** *** ***

Wolfgang woke inside a glass box. The box was inside yet another concrete cellblock type room.

Blearily he took a moment to be pissed off. What was it with BPO and their fucking obsession with aesthetic: the HAZMAT suits, the kitschy room with paper towels, that interrogation chamber and now this sci-fi atrocity.

"You ok?" Will was leaning over him.

Wolfgang gave him a dirty look. Will was supposed to be on blockers, he was supposed to be on the run. "What the fuck do you think?"

Will pulled back slightly, "Sorry I don't understand could you –"

Wolfgang sat up abruptly, nearly passing out from shock, as the room swam alarmingly, " – You're actually here?! - "

"– speak English." Will finished lamely. "Yep."

Wolfgang ground his teeth together. Calm thoughts. Calm thoughts. Will wasn't an idiot. Stupidly noble, yes, but not an idiot. "Why are you here?"

"It's a long story, but, uh, I turned myself in."

"And why would you do that?" Wolfgang thought his teeth might break if he clenched his jaw any harder.

"We are family now Wolfgang," Will sighed in what was clearly intended to be a placating manner, "We look after each other."

"Family." Wolfgang was stalking towards his cluster-mate, unsteadily but with great intent. "Are you FUCKING insane Gorski?"

Will raised his hands, "Calm down, Wolfgang. I'm here to help. I think we can negotiate a way out of this."

"You mean to say," Wolfgang began, now quite sure that Will had lost his mind. "That you have endangered our entire cluster, risked their lives, because you want to play good cop with a bunch homicidal fucking maniacs?

"Umm," replied Will, not that it mattered because Wolfgang had already wound up fully ready to punch his cluster-mate square in the face.

Uncertainty over Will's mental state had quickly been supplanted by rage. Mindless, terrified, rage. Kala. Sun. Lito. Nomi and Capheus. Riley. Will would never hurt Riley. What the fuck had they done to him? This was not Will.

White-hot pain shot through him as he raised his arm. Wolfgang felt his legs give out. Above him Will's face instantly filled with concern. Arms reached out to catch him as he fell.

"I am going to kill you," Wolfgang promised as the haze of pain caused his ears to ring and the room faded from view once more.

Chapter Text

Will was still there where he woke up. Fucking fuck. Wolfgang blinked a few times and found himself almost completely lucid. His face was mostly wiped clean. The minor injuries were treated with bandages. His head was pillowed by Will's coat.

This was going to make killing him awkward.

"You agreed to the deal?" Wolfgang asked cautiously in English. Will straightened from his slumped position on the floor.

"I'm sorry," murmured Will. "But what kind of monster would I be if I left you behind?"

The kind that lives, thought Wolfgang grimly, but it didn't seem productive to voice that out loud.

Fuck Will and his damn hero complex.

Still, suspicion rattled around in the back of his head – something wasn't right.

"It seems," Wolfgang struggled into a sitting position; he kept a careful distance from Will. "That they didn't hold up their end of the deal."

Will's jaw tightened imperceptibly.

"I am sure they will," he responded mildly and Wolfgang had to fight the urge to hit him again.

If this was some kind of a trick, if Will had something up his sleeve, it wouldn't do to interrogate him. If – and this might be the less terrifying possibility – if he had somehow gone mad, and was hallucinating this whole thing then he had to stay calm.

"How long have we been in here?"

Will shrugged and showed Wolfgang his bare wrist, "They took my watch, but less than four hours I would guess. They came by and gave me your bandages and some pain meds –" Will indicated a thin slot in the glass cube by the door, "- maybe an hour ago."

What are they waiting for? Wolfgang wanted to ask. But he kept that thought to himself as well, they were most certainly being watched, it was best to sit down and shut up.

Too bad, he really had to piss.

In the meantime he examined Will. He was on blockers, so he couldn't tell if the connection was different, now that they had met. But the more he watched the more he became certain this wasn't a hallucination.

Will was wearing a different shirt, one he hadn't seen before, his shoes were new, and he had missed that spot under his chin while shaving that he always did but that Wolfgang had never been close enough to notice.

It was the same place that Wolfgang missed on the rare occasion he could be talked into a clean shave. He was fairly sure that wasn't something he could just make up.

Fuck. Insanity would have been convenient.

Wolfgang sighed, and slumped back down into the floor. Sleep promised to overtake him soon and he saw no reason to resist. Besides, he would rather eat an entire round of live ammunition than admit that the primary emotion he was feeling (after anger) was relief.

The cost would no doubt be steep, but at least he wasn't alone anymore.

*** *** ***

"Sun?" Nomi's voice crackled in her ear suddenly and Sun jerked into awareness.

They were on the highway, Riley was driving them out of Amsterdam, their part of the plan complete. They had kept Nomi on the phone, listening to the sound of her humming through the Bluetooth connection in case of updates but so far all had been running smoothly.

Sun had drifted off to an uneasy sleep under the constant flash of streetlights and the drone of the engine. But now she snapped to attention now at the sound of Nomi's voice.

"Yes?"

Her cluster-mate's voice seemed to be shaking violently, Sun felt like her insides had been flash frozen.

"Felix called, we have a problem."

 

*** *** ***

Kala was terrified.

She had tried, she really had. But when kicking and screaming in Lila's trunk amounted to nothing but the sound of muffled laughter from the driver's seat (that bitch) she had finally subsided. It was perhaps more prudent to save her energy she reasoned.

Lila had clearly injected her with blockers, catching her while she was sleeping on Felix's couch. She would have to rely on her own skills to get her out of this one. Which of course meant that this was not looking good.

When the trunk opened she braced herself, ready to bite or scratch or anything. But the moment never came. Thickly gloved hands – HAZMAT suits she would bet her life on it – reached for her in the dark and then bundled her onto a stretcher.

There was a pinch at her elbow – an induction agent - her mind unhelpfully supplied. Then a rubber mask clamped over her face. She could hear a hissing noise: gas, an anesthetic, most likely isoflurane. Isoflurane was the nearly perfect anesthetic, but had a very distinctive smell, they should be giving to her after she was unconscious not when -

Also not helpful, she chided herself– she needed to stay awake, she needed –

 

*** *** ***

The door to the concrete cell they were being kept in swung open, and a figure covered in a sheet was rolled in by four figures in HAZMAT suits. Without so much as a glance in his direction they began to roll the stretcher so that it was it was facing the cube.

Wolfgang had a terrible premonition, prickly, like barbed wire scraping up his neck. Beside him Will stirred restlessly and then jerked awake.

The person on the left hand side depressed a button and the stretcher began rise, up and up until it was almost completely upright.

The sheet slid down.

Wolfgang muffled his shout by biting down so hard on his tongue it bled.

Kala.

Kala who laid there as limp as a corpse strapped into that bed contraption so that only her head lolled free.

Kala whose smooth skin was covered in red welts and bruises so dark they could almost be mistaken for ash.

Kala who was so devastatingly small in crumpled in person.

Kala whose thick dark curls, the ones that he had imagined burying his hands in more times than he could count, were ragged and caught in the metal bars they had cuffed her hands to.

Kala who he had imagined meeting a thousand times, even going so far as to construct conversations and snappy lines to make her laugh in his head like a school boy with a crush, but not like this. Never like this.

Kala.

No.

Will was beside him in a moment, looking as stricken as he felt. He felt his cluster-mate reaching for his shoulder from above, because somehow Wolfgang had crumpled to the floor.

Blood was spilling from his mouth where he had bit his tongue.

"Please," he managed finally, nearly gagging on his horror, "Please tell me this is part of a plan."

Will only gaped like a fish, mouth opening and closing. "We had a plan," he whispered, "But she wasn't supposed to – it was meant to be – Felix had – "

"Felix? You were going to –" Wolfgang couldn't think. He couldn't even voice those words. What kind of madcap plan involved Felix being in this place?

"He volunteered, it was his idea," whispered Will, and the whisper alone instilled some desperate hope in Wolfgang. He clung to it like a drowning man.

"I meant what I said," Will also looked nauseous, "She was supposed to be safe. She was going to turn in Lila and –"

Kala's left hand twitched slightly. Wolfgang stopped listening.

Then all at once she jerked into awareness, hair straggling her face, her chest rising unevenly. Her ribcage was half exposed where the hospital gown didn't cover her. They had taken her clothes while she was unconscious.

Wolfgang wasn't sure what kind of noise he was making, but Will was gripping into his shoulder with fingers like iron rods.

Dark eyes met his. Dazed, bloodshot, dull. Not right. They should be bright, clever, just a little bit teasing.

The cell door swung open.

Kala's lips were moving.

A white haired man in a suit was approaching. They were wheeling in the Traceworks after him.

Will's finger's tightened painfully, his collarbone was protesting.

Her eyes hadn't left his, they were clearer now, bright with tears.

Whispers was almost beside her. The machine was already lit up. They were attaching leads to her chest, handling her as dispassionately as a rag doll.

Kala was trying to say something.

The cube was soundproofed.

In one horrifying moment everything about the set up they had him in became perfectly clear. Wolfgang thought be might be sick.

The glass cube was designed for maximum viewing potential, but not a single thing to hurt himself with. This was no surprise but now he knew the purpose. He was to be a perfect spectator.

The blockers, such a deft twist only a sensate could have thought of, just another layer of isolation. They could have made them both suffer, like they had when they tortured Wolfgang the first time. But it would take a sensate to know that there was solidarity even in suffering. So long as it was done together.

He wouldn't even be able to hear her voice. Not even her screams. Only Whispers.

And Will, Will kept here as a witness to the destruction of a bond that was at its core identical to the one he shared with Riley. No doubt they would come to him after. After Wolfgang had beat himself bloody against the walls of this cage they would offer Will a carrot.

Work for us and we will spare her.

Of course, Wolfgang had never been the end goal. He had suspected as much. BPO didn't seem like the type to recruit loose canons. It had been Will all along.

Beside him Will had seemed to realize the same thing, because horror was written across every line of his face.

"No, no, no..." Whose mouth was saying that?

No. No. Please. No.

There was no ultimatum.

There was no villainous speech blasted over loud speakers. For a moment only Whispers leaned over Kala, one hand brushing intimately over her forehead, as if to murmur in her ear. And then he pulled back.

The paddles charged. The lights flickered.

Wolfgang began to scream.

Chapter Text

"It's ok, shh, it's going to be ok, I love you, " she murmured, over and over again. It was all nonsense. He couldn't hear her; she had known that even before he had fallen to his knees hands soundlessly crashing against the glass.

The look in his eyes was not altogether human, blood spilling out of his mouth, dressed only in a pair of scrub pants and a collection of bandages dividing his upper half into neat sections.

Her bizarre first thought was that she had never seen him look so naked before. Her second thought was one of regret. Oh god, she did not want this to be her last memory of him.

As if in answer to her plea, echoes of the past suddenly pervaded her spinning head. Wolfgang covered in ash and sweat, facing death, with only a flicker of fear. His voice - ringing with certainty - telling her that he was a monster.

Well he probably looked it now, emaciated, bloodstained, beard overlong and with a terrifying wildness in his expression. His back bowed and twisted as if he were trying to escape his skin.

And just as before, she couldn't see it. Not in the slightest.

She just saw the man that she loved.

"I'm sorry," she told him, even as Whisper's entered her field of vision and Wolfgang's expression became downright murderous, "I'm so sorry, it's all going to be ok."

"Tables have turned since we last met, wouldn't you agree Ms. Rasal?" Kala didn't even spare him a glance. The sterile lighting of the room was catching on Wolfgang's hair; it was the only warm colour in the room.

So close.

Whispers didn't seem upset by her lack of attention and merely whistled a jaunty tune as gloved hands attached leads to her chest. The heart rate monitor started up.

Beep. Beep. Kala tried to shut it out.

Will had both arms around Wolfgang's shoulders, trying to hold him back. Their eyes met through the glass and she tried to give him a reassuring smile. Surely he had suspected this – surely he had known that she would conspire to take Felix's place. It is what he would have done.

Ms. Facchini, has out done herself," stated Whispers, snapping on a pair of gloves. Kala's gaze flickered to him involuntarily. His hands still shook slightly. "Truly. We thought we might be receiving Mr. Berner, but this, you, you solve two of my problems."

The machine hummed to life, he adjusted a few dials. It took a few tries before he got to the correct settings.

He sighed, "I do hate the waste however, we could have had a very beneficial partnership. So many things I could have taught you - I am sure you are curious as to why the blockers didn't work on me as expected. "

He tsked, "Oh well, can't have everything I suppose."

Kala merely set her jaw and watched the tremors in those hands with a certain sick satisfaction.

He leaned closer to her, and spoke softly into her ear, his voice indulgent and self-satisfied. "After I kill you, I will dispatch of him, and then Mr. Gorski will destroy the rest of you. Every single person that has helped you will come to regret it. Even your dear husband won't survive this little incident, although that might not be so disappointing for you."

He pulled back with a warm smile. A suited assistant took the paddles firmly in hand. "Don't worry, I will keep it our little secret."

Kala tried not to flinch.

Wolfgang was a blur of motion in her periphery; he had started to smash himself into the glass. Crashing against it over and over, his whole body shaking with each impact. Blood was already starting to spot the walls.

She could not bring herself to ask for her own salvation, not after all she had done. But she could ask for his. She had nothing to give. No food, no incense to burn, but perhaps this would be payment enough.

Pain. Searing burning, tingling, like static. All the breath seemed to leave her body. Oh god she wasn't strong enough for this. Oh god.

Absence. Gasping for air. Erratic beeping. She couldn't do that again. She wasn't like Wolfgang. He could withstand this. She was soft, she had no preparation -

Pain. She was screaming, a strange truncated thing, scrambling in the spaces between desperate breaths.

Absence. Surely she wouldn't survive another one. She didn't want to. She thought of her parents, her sister. The warm sunlight on her skin, her elephant trunked god. Perhaps she would meet them all again in the next life. Still the beeping went on.

Pain.

She could hear sweet patter of rainfall. Finally the clouds delivering on their promise, the low pressure front. Water on her lips. Blood in her mouth. Beep. Beep.

Pain.

The raindrops had fingers. They cradled her head and watched her with eyes the colour of a cloudless sky.

Pain.

So much noise. But not beeping any more, that was fading. That and the soft thuds of a body hitting a wall repeatedly. She could barely hear it over the rain. It must be monsoon season. Her sister was watching the lightning by the window, curtains swirling in the wind.

Pain. But barely. Not even hers. His fingers were smoothing away the creases at the corner of her eyes.

He was there. But there was no broken glass.

"I missed you." She told him. A silly thing to say perhaps. But she was feeling silly, and light. So light. She might float away on the next gust of wind. Wouldn't that be something?

"Come with me," she said smiling at him, he looked older than he should, the lines around his eyes far too tired.

"I can't," he whispered.

Kala pouted. He was being difficult.

"Stay with me," he begged, and there was despair in his eyes. It confused her. She didn't like it.

Her mouth opened to ask a question, to tease him perhaps – convince his lips into that tiny challenging smirk - but at the moment the wind arrived. It was stronger than a gust. This was more like a hurricane; it dragged and swirled. And with it came the darkness.

Kala was scared. His hand was slipping from her face, she tried to reach for him, but she was falling not floating.

He might have called her name.

She might have called back.

*** *** ***

 

Rationally he knew that he couldn't smash through the glass. Rationality, however, had nothing to do with it.

Will might have been trying to stop him. Or perhaps he had frozen in horror. Perhaps he had already accepted his fate. Wolfgang wasn't sure; his focus had become singular.

Kala. Kala. Kala.

He had to reach her. He had to stop him. She was so close. So close, he could almost touch her.

And then abruptly he could. Like an elastic band snapping, something changed. Like a pressure wave, or a burst of cold air. Suddenly he was suddenly beside her.

Not physically. He knew that, but he was visiting – sort of. Had the blockers worn off? No. it didn't feel the same, everything was fuzzy. But he had somehow managed to reach her.

It was too late. Too late.

Her face lit up in a devastating smile, a vulnerable thing, so warm, and so quintessentially Kala. She was mumbling nonsense. He had to blink past the wetness in his eyes. But no tears, of course, he couldn't even give her that.

The paddles came down again. They felt nothing.

The unsteady beeping of the monitor sounded like rain. Cold Berlin rain on his face, and trickling down the back of his neck. He would hold her hand and they would walk together, slowly while everyone else rushed by. Felix would chide them for always forgetting an umbrella.

Her breathing was growing slower. Soon now. He brushed a hand across her forehead.

He couldn't think of damn thing to say. I love you didn't seem to be enough. He could only breath her name, over and over again.

A flicker in his periphery. There was a woman standing beside him. She was dressed all in orange robes, and had a bald head. There was gentle distant look to her face, otherworldly, like an angel of antiquity.

"Have you come to take her?" he asked. It didn't make any fucking sense, but then none of this did.

She blinked in surprise, and then a look of mild amusement crossed her face, "Wrong religion I think."

"Ah."

She peered at him, "Wolfgang I presume?" She nodded behind her to where his body was standing immobile, pressed against the glass. "Very well done, it takes most years to learn how to do that."

Her gaze shifted to Whispers, who had frozen in place.

Wolfgang blinked in confusion. He could see her too?

Whispers forestalled the assistant with the paddles with a wave of his hand. "I don't believe we have met," and there was an undercurrent of uncertainty in his voice.

"No," she smiled without warmth, "We have not."

Wolfgang suddenly felt a twisting sensation in his chest, as if the very air he breathed were being warped. The monk's voice took on the tone of one reading a prepared speech, but he still couldn't see where she was speaking from.

"I speak on behalf of Riley Blue to all sensates. She would like to extend an invitation. The time to act is now. Do not be afraid. BPO has fallen. All are welcome to join us in the new age. "

She bowed and with nary a nod in either Wolfgang or Whisper's direction disappeared.

Whisper's gaped dumbly.

There was a muffled thud, like thunder. But the rain was gone now. More thunder. And screaming.

Wait, what?

The connection snapped back, and Wolfgang went flying. So did Whispers oddly enough. And Will too, as the glass cage shattered and the concrete wall crumbled into chunks of flying dust and plaster.

Kala disappeared into a haze smoke and debris.

What?

Will was struggling to his feet. Wolfgang couldn't seem to find his legs. Kala, he had to find her, he had to –

"What?" hacked Will, blinking owlishly from the other end of the room.

"KNOCK, KNOCK MOTHERFUCKERS," said Felix, emerging out of the dust with a sooty grin and a swagger like a poor man's Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger.

Wolfgang passed out.

 

*** *** ***

That didn't last long.

When he came to Will was leaning over him again, covered in rock dust. His ears were ringing.

Kala.

Desperation made him strong, unsteadily he picked himself off the ground and began to stagger through the smashed glass.

The room was suddenly very full of people. People with flashlights and reflective tape. Sirens wailed. A group of uniformed figures with duffle bags were leaning over a crumbled figure on the floor, a few others seemed to be investigating the rubble. A white haired figure was slumped over a chunk of concrete in handcuffs.

It took Wolfgang a moment to understand. Police and Paramedics. Emergency services were here. So was Felix.

The paramedics paid him little mind, leaning over Kala, so that her entire body was hidden from view.

The frames that used to make up the cube crumbled and Wolfgang threw himself past the bent beams and into Felix. His friend caught him and held him back. Will might have been behind him, he wasn't sure, right then, he didn't give a shit.

"Hey, hey, where do you think you are going?" Felix's hands tightened their grip on his shoulders, His friend had on pair of black fingerless gloves. His black fingerless gloves come to think of it. "She is safe. They are taking her to the hospital. You can't help her right now."

Wolfgang staggered, Felix's words seeping slowly into his brain. Exhaustion seemed to be catching up to him now. He watched as they put her on a stretcher and began to roll her away.

"No!" He cried, surging forward, he wasn't going to let her out of his sight again.

Felix held him back more firmly, "She is safe," he repeated. "Let them help her, it's ok, BPO is over."

Wolfgang reluctantly tore his eyes off of the retreating ambulance; to look at his friend's anxious, soot smeared face.

"She is safe," he muttered as if repeating the words would make them seem truer. Even more people flooded through the blown out door. Firefighters it looked like.

"Nice to see you," he muttered to Felix belatedly, it felt like someone was sloshing around the contents of his brain.

Felix snorted, "Yeah, great." He sized Wolfgang up, "What the fuck did they do to you?"

"Just a bit dizzy," slurred Wolfgang, trying to sound dismissive, "Bumped my head."

"Uh huh," Felix adjusted his grip on Wolfgang's arm. A police officer had noticed them and was hurrying their way.

"I am fine," said Wolfgang firmly, trying to regain his footing before the floor inexplicably rose up to meet him.

Chapter Text

The room was empty when she woke up. Confused, Kala blinked at the ugly green wall directly across from her.

Where was she? It had to be a hospital right? She felt like that shade of green was fairly specific to hospitals.

There was a gasp from the doorway, Amanita rushed in looking harried. Kala felt her head ache from the effort of following her movements.

"Hi," Amanita gushed, leaning over her with a maternal glint in her eye, "How are you feeling?"

Kala made a noncommittal noise. Amanita nodded sympathetically and handed her a plastic cup full of water.

"Well you have the most impeccable timing," she said a hint of humour in her eyes, "I literally just sent Sun back to the hotel to sleep. The gang has been taking turns keeping vigil."

"Is Wolfgang ok?" asked Kala, "And Will? What happened to Whispers?"

Amanita made some soothing noises, "Everyone is ok, well except for Whispers, he is very not ok." She grinned a little wickedly, "But anyways, I am going to grab Will and Riley, I think they are downstairs getting coffee."

Kala nodded, and then belated remembered she was a sensate and nearly called Amanita back. Too late. Carefully she took catalogue of her surroundings then tried to reach out her thoughts to Wolfgang.

He was there, faintly - half-asleep - but the connection felt sore almost, like she had strained a muscle. She could hear Felix in the background talking a mile a minute and decided to leave him be. Wherever he was, if he had Felix she knew he would safe.

The empty chair beside her bed was suddenly occupied.

"Hello Kala," said the monk with the flower tattoo on her head.

Kala blinked in confusion.

"I don't think I have met you," she replied uncertainly.

The monk smiled, with just a hint of mischief, "I am bending just a few rules."

"I can't see where you are," Kala felt her head spin. "Why is that?"

"I am on blockers," she said simply.

"But –" Recent events began to connect in her throbbing head culminating a sudden burst of understanding. Resistance to the drug was possible. Some sensates, like Whisper's who had somehow managed to alert BPO to their location, could overcome its effects. She was not surprised exactly, but it was gratifying to be be right for once.

"How?" she demanded, not even bothering to hide how greedy she was for answers.

"Years of practice for most," the monk seemed to settle more comfortably into the chair. Outside the half open window Kala could hear the sound of honking cars and rustling leaves, but it all seemed very distant. "Meditation, taking small amounts at a time, even just extended overuse."

"Is that what allowed Whisper's to contact BPO while we had him?"

"Yes, rather," the monk sighed, "What he was doing was unnatural - trying to suppress his natural tendencies - the body is amazingly adaptable as you no doubt are aware. I believe after so many years of use he was able to develop a sort of one sided resistance."

Kala mulled this over, sipping on her cup of water, "So he could reach out while on blockers, but he couldn't contact a sensate that was on blockers."

"Exactly."

"But you can?"

"Yes."

Nonplussed, Kala had to search for her voice for a moment, "How?"

The monk smiled in a manner that made Kala immediately suspect she was going to get only half an answer.

Sure enough...

"Remember that Homo sensorium has been around long before the scourge of BPO. Our mark has been left on nearly aspect of sapien culture. Much of that knowledge has been lost, but some has been preserved. A few blockers cannot measure up to thousands of years of teachings; it is only a matter of looking in the right places. "

She shrugged her shoulders under her orange robes; "Humanity's relentless search for transcendence, the scramble to reach a state grace, the desire for connection to others, to all living things – where do you think this comes from? Perhaps you have recognized some of our ancestor's teachings your own gods. Perhaps they called to you, and without knowing you answered. Perhaps these ideas touched something in you that you could not ignore."

"Perhaps," replied Kala and felt a small smile of her own cross her face. The sight from the paper eyeholes of Ganesha flashed before her mind's eye. She hadn't understood it then, after all she had only been a child, but she did now. In that moment, it had felt as if the whole world were her cluster. Transcendence indeed.

The monk scrutinized her closely, "If you ever wished to learn, I could teach you."

"You could?" Kala felt slightly skeptical, "Do I have to become a monk?"

This actually made her laugh, a warm full sound, "No, no of course not," her expression became more serious, "I found my faith to be a helpful tool, but it is not required. I was not a spiritual person to begin with, this gave me an excuse to be."

"That makes sense." Her chest was beginning to ache slightly with the strain of talking. The monk noticed and adjusted the angle of the bed from the control panel on the side. She rose from the chair with the soft rustling of fabric.

"Well," she placed a gentle hand on Kala's arm, "You know where to find me. I do hope you will visit sometime. The rest of your cluster is welcome too of course, especially your partner –"

"Wolfgang?" interrupted Kala, shocked out of the exhaustion that was looming over her.

"The very same," the monk replied enigmatic smile firmly in place.

"He is about the least spiritual person I have ever met," stated Kala, eyebrows raised skeptically.

The monk paused, "You don't remember?" Kala frowned in confusion, but the monk went on before she could inquire further, "Either way you might be surprised." She gave Kala one last look before turning away.

With nary a sound but a quiet swish of robes she was gone as quickly as she came.

 

*** *** ***

"Well," Felix let out a massive sigh, and slouched lower on the hard chair across from Wolfgang's stretcher, "I always suspected you would get us thrown in jail, I just didn't think it would be over a damn woman."

"Fuck off," muttered Wolfgang affectionately, "We aren't even in jail."

"I mean," continued Felix as if Wolfgang hadn't spoken, "I always knew that orange would be a great colour on you – and I am always telling you to branch out – but it really doesn't suit me. And don't get me started on stripes –"

"I think that is only on TV," interrupted Wolfgang, rolling into an upright position and immediately regretting it.

Felix stopped rambling, and looked over with genuine concern, "How bad is it? On a scale of 1 to that one time when you were sixteen and –"

"6" interrupted Wolfgang before Felix could finish his sentence.

Unsteadily he got to his feet. They were being kept in some kind of interrogation-room-infirmary hybrid. He was fuzzy on the details but there was currently some sort of investigation underway since Felix had gotten the police involved.

Wolfgang was not quite sure what fit of madness had possessed him to do something like that, but either way they were currently considered key witnesses. Although Will had visited briefly a few hours ago, to assure them that the police had no idea about BPO or sensates, Wolfgang couldn't help feeling uneasy. He really hoped they wouldn't dig much deeper into their past. Neither he nor Felix had particularly squeaky clean records, and then there was the small issue of that list for his former kills BPO had taunted him with.

The thought of that information getting out made his gut roil with anxiety. Wolfgang pushed the thought out of his head and took a few experimental steps. Not good, but not terrible. He had one hell of a headache though.

Careful not to lose his balance, he leaned over his friend, now tipping back in his chair.

Felix let out a yelp of surprise as Wolfgang got a good fistful of his shirt (Hawaiian print - some sort of silk/rayon fabric – really Felix?) and jerked until they were nose to nose.

"And what," he began very calmly, "Was this bullshit about you turning yourself in to be tortured as a diversion for my rescue mission?"

"Ah," began Felix, looking very displeased as the shirt crumpled in Wolfgang's fist. Wolfgang didn't see much point – it was pretty caked with dust and ash - but then again he never did see the point.

"Well," he continued, attempting to disentangle himself. "Not my finest plan I will admit, but we only had 24 hours so –"

"Never do that again."

"Well technically, I didn't do anything because your girlfriend double crossed me and sabotaged the ropes I used on Lila beforehand, fucking up a perfectly good –"

"Felix."

His friend's face suddenly became serious, "Wolfie, you shot up your uncle's entire fucking gang for me, it is the least I could do. You couldn't have thought I would leave you in there could you?"

Wolfgang sighed and let go of Felix's shirt, "Suppose not." Ignoring the bitter taste in his mouth when he thought of his uncle he pulled Felix in for a rough hug.

"Just don't do it again."

He could almost hear Felix rolling his eyes, "Sure boss. No problem."

Wolfgang gently smacked him on the side of the head.

There was the sound of a throat clearing behind him; an officer bearing a clipboard was standing uncomfortably by the door.

"Mr. Berner? Would you wait outside?" Felix shot a worried look at Wolfgang, but left immediately.

The officer only half shut the door, which allowed some of the tenseness to seep out of Wolfgang's shoulders.

"You've had a rough go of it haven't you?" began the officer settling down in one of the chairs lined up against the wall and indicating Wolfgang should do the same.

Wolfgang sat just out of arm's reach. The officer's tag read Sgt. Beadle, his kevlar vest had crumbs down the front, and he did not carry a gun or a Taser. He could feel a prickle of awareness down the back of his neck as Will and Sun appeared behind him, but he did not react.

The officer didn't wait for Wolfgang to reply, "I admit Mr. Bogdanow, we don't quite know what to make of this. But since we have nothing to hold you on, I am going to have to let you go."

Wolfgang nodded curtly and stood up. His knees wobbled. He ignored them.

"But," the officer held up an admonishing hand, "I want to review your statement first."

Wolfgang sat back down. This should be interesting. He didn't actually remember giving a statement. The moment an officer had ambled up to him, still lying on his cot, Will had taken over and Wolfgang had let his attention drift.

"You are a resident of Berlin. You were kidnapped a month ago, just before you were about to go on a trip to Paris to meet your girlfriend."

"I was in the middle of packing," supplied Wolfgang, trying for innocent chagrin. He was not sure how successful he was.

"You have no idea why they would take you. You have no idea who the man you were – uh – detained with was. You have no idea who the man torturing your girlfriend was."

"Never met either of them before," replied Wolfgang with complete honesty. Will let out a dry huff of amusement behind him.

"And you have no idea why they would kidnap your girlfriend as well."

"To hurt me, no doubt."

"You don't think your girlfriend's – ah – husband, had anything to do with this?"

"Nope," Wolfgang gave a shrug. If the officer was trying to shock him with information about Kala's marital status it wasn't going to work, "Isn't the type."

And if the officer was getting irritated he was doing a good job of hiding it. He appeared to scan his clipboard once more, before putting it aside and leaning a little closer to Wolfgang.

"We aren't idiots you know, the name Bogdanow is known even here. People don't get kidnapped for no good reason. There is always a connection."

"I can't help the circumstances of my birth," he replied mildly.

The officer scrutinized him, and then slowly nodded. "Well that will be all for now, German authorities have been notified, we may have more questions for you later."

He picked up the clipboard and held the door open; indicating Wolfgang should walk through first, "Don't go too far."

Wolfgang adopted a bland expression, and walked away.

At the desk Felix was growling mutinously at the clerk, whose shoulders were hiking up ever higher to his ears. He was gesturing at something on the screen of the computer in front of him. Wolfgang laid a warning hand on Felix's shoulder.

"What's this?" he asked quietly.

Felix opened his mouth but the clerk cut him off, "Mr. Berner was in possession of an illegal weapon, we are going to have to –"

Wolfgang saw something like victory flash across the face of the officer that had followed him to the door. He felt his heart sink like a boulder sucked into an undertow. Fuck.

"Was he?" a voice cut in smoothly. Wolfgang snapped his gaze up to see Nomi leaning casually against the desk wearing a brown leather jacket and a pair of ludicrously large sunglasses slid just slightly down her nose. She tossed Wolfgang a subtle wink. "Check again."

Felix just stuck his hands on his hips.

"Who is this?" asked the officer at the same time the clerk's face went slack in confusion.

"Their chauffeur," replied Nomi sweetly. The clerk began to stammer, gesturing at his computer screen, the screen which no doubt contained the proper documentation for the gun. She led Wolfgang and Felix away smoothly before either man could utter a word.

"Nomi," murmured Felix in awe, "We meet at last."

"You don't even know how to drive," muttered Wolfgang grudgingly.

Nomi let out an involuntary snort as she shepherded them up to a sedate looking minivan in the parking garage. "I missed you too, Wolfgang, I missed you too."

*** *** ***

Even through the closed door, Sun could feel the tenseness hovering in the room. It was beginning to effect her, she could feel her hands clenching, involuntarily forming fists. Riley was fiercely chewing on her lower lip. The conference room door loomed ominously in front of them.

Or in front of Riley, in reality, Sun was sitting in a hotel room, the TV on mute in front of her. But then reality had gotten a lot more blurred for her lately.

Riley took a few deep breaths. They door was half open, waiting for them to slip through it.

The first meeting. Hopefully there would be more.

"I can't believe they actually came," whispered Riley, who looked uncomfortable in her crisp blazer and slacks.

Sun on the other hand felt a certain air of coming home. Not a particularly warm feeling, but one of familiarity none the less. The uncomfortable impractical clothing, the charade of the sedate grey carpets and bland paintings, of darkened boardrooms. At least this time she was doing something she believed in.

"I think it was time," Sun replied. And she meant it. The call of freedom, of discovering self-truth was irrepressible; she had known it the minute she decided to keep fighting – against her father's wishes. "I wish I could actually be there," she murmured.

Riley smiled softly, "Once we clear your name, you can come to as many business meetings as you like."

Sun rolled her eyes.

Riley reached out and squeezed her hand. Then together they walked into the conference room.

It was a large room, more suited to lectures and presentations than committee meetings. Sun quickly surveyed the room as they entered - it looked like it could sit about 50 and nearly every seat was full. Riley gasped as a few caught her eye, and through her Sun suddenly had the experience of walking into a veritable wall of thoughts and nearly stumbled.

So many of them. There were so many.

It was overwhelming, it was incredible. Each set of eyes contained an entire story for her to read, a book of impressions and names and feelings. There was no way to describe it. It was like trying to conduct a conversation with an entire building of people at the same time.

She anchored on to a few familiar faces, floating in the crowd. Nomi. Lito. Capheus. Wolfgang. Will.

She and Riley made their way to the dais. Riley swallowed nervously. "I don't know if I can do this," she murmured, "This is a lot different from shouting at drunk people in a club."

Sun squeezed her hand a little tigher, and thought of the many, many business proposals she had given. This crowd was nothing compared to that. She had to suppress a shudder at the thought of those fishy, greedy eyed man that had been taught she was less than them, trying to sneak under the hems of her dress.

She approached the microphone, and Riley breathed a sigh of relief behind her.

"Good afternoon," she began in English, and because it was Riley's mouth she was using, for once it was not a struggle. "Thank you for coming."

Deep breath. Just another business meeting.

"I imagine that you have many questions about the last few days, and also about the future." Sun took a deep breath, the first sentence was always the hardest. Behind her she felt Riley's nervousness being to dissipate. "We will answer all of these questions and more today. But first I would like to share with you the news that Milton Mattheson, the man known as The Cannibal has been pronounced brain dead and is currently in the ICU of St. Joseph's Hospital. The additional hunters of BPO have been identified and are in police custody – " There were some rumbles around the room. " – and we will update you once we know more. We understand the risk you have taken in being here. We -"

And with that Riley took over, the exchange effortless and invisible, Sun drifted back to her hotel room feeling that giddy, adrenaline rush of speaking in public already begin to fade.

She sighed and sprawled across the bed. Now that they had access to the not inconsiderable funds in the BPO corporate accounts the living conditions had improved considerably. Nomi had taken an almost gleeful pleasure in booking them rooms in one of the best hotels in London. Sun had ended up with a three room monstrosity with it's own Jacuzzi. The massive fluffy bed was almost too soft and luxurious after months on the run. Almost.

She had drifted into a light doze when her phone began to ring. Instinct took her to complete awareness in moments.

"Yes?"

"It's Mun," his voice was unreadable, although the service was much better here.

"Yes?" repeated Sun, willing him to get to the point.

"Joon-Ki's trial is to two days. Will you still come?" She recognized the edge in his voice now – excitement mixed with anxiety. I gave my word didn't I? she thought drily, but Sun couldn't find in herself to fault him. If they had learned one thing it was that Joon-Ki was not to be underestimated. So she replied the only way she could.

"Yes."

Chapter Text

Her phone was ringing.

But not the one sitting on sitting on her bedside. Not the one Nomi had passed her across the moldering dinner table in their hideout in Manchester a lifetime ago. Not the one that had been in her back pocket when Lila had dragged her by her hair into the trunk of a car. Not the one that had been overlooked by the brusque pat down given by the guards in HAZMAT suits, while Lila disappeared into the night with a smirk.

The phone that was ringing was the one shoved into the deepest recesses of her luggage. The one that had been tucked there as soon as Rajan was out of sight.

Her guilty not-secret.

Will jerked his head up from where it had been resting on Riley's shoulder. It was mid-afternoon. Wolfgang and Felix were stuck in traffic; they were dozing while the TV played on mute.

"It's Rajan," said Kala quietly, in response to Will's raised eyebrow. Riley twitched in her sleep.

Will carefully slipped out from under her arm, and dug around in the suitcase that now looked quite worse for wear.

"Do you want us to leave?" The question was an empty courtesy on many accounts – first that Will and Riley could never properly leave – they would hear this conversation no matter how far they were from her. Secondly he already knew her answer.

Kala nodded and pressed the answer button as Will guided a disorientated Riley out of room.

"Kala?" Rajan's voice caused a fresh feeling of misery to twist her insides. Kala bit down hard on her lower lip.

"Rajan," and then belatedly, remembering with even more guilt that he was in even more danger than she was now, "Are you hurt? Has something happened?"

He had told her not to call so she hadn't, but now everything that she had forgotten in the rush to save Wolfgang came rushing back, "Is my family safe?"

"Everyone is fine," he rushed to reassure her, speaking softly and slowly. "You father and mother and sister send their love, we moved them to a safe house after you left, just in case, but now they are clear to come home."

Of course. Of course he would look after her family when she had barely spared them a thought. Kala let out a choked little sob, that she muffled with her hand.

"Kala," Rajan's voice changed. There was an undercurrent of panic in it, and anger perhaps. As if his calmness earlier had only been a front. Kala felt a terrible jolt of unease in her chest. "You never went to Paris."

"What do you -? How -?" Blustering was a poor tactic, but Kala couldn't manage anything else.

"There were agents stationed around the apartment to keep an eye on you. You never arrived; I have been worried sick trying to find you. You never answered my calls until now. And then your name comes up, checked into a hospital in London. Kala what happened?"

The terror and guilt bubbled up her throat and for a moment Kala thought she might actually be sick. For a long moment she just gaped like a fish. Her eyes prickled fiercely with tears. God what had she done. Unbidden the image came to her faithful, noble Rajan, searching for her, pacing anxiously in their apartment as he was wont to do, distracted while his own life was in danger, while his company was under investigation.

"I didn't know you were trying to reach me," she choked out finally.

But even that was only a half-truth. Kala hadn't even considered Rajan, she had forgotten him as soon as she had gotten on the plane. As soon as they caught Whispers and Jonas Nomi had shoved her suitcase into a downstairs closet in the safe house due to the limited space in the bedroom. No one would have heard it ringing in there. And then later when finding Felix all she had brought was a backpack. She had left the phone behind.

"Kala," Rajan sighed, "I know you better than that. Or at least," and there was real pain in his voice, "I thought I did."

I have been unfaithful, she wanted to say, I have been a monster. But those words wouldn't come out; all she could manage were a series of horrible retching noises.

"Kala?" The anger was swiftly replaced with concern. That felt worse somehow. "Kala are you very badly hurt? The agents couldn't find out –"

"I am fine," she managed. "It was nothing."

"I think I deserve an explanation."

That and so much more. Kala made an effort to stem the flow of snot and tears running down her face.

"Yes, yes of course, in person?" That was the least she could do right? Or was she just stalling for time?

"I have a flight to Paris booked in three days time, will you meet me there?"

"Yes." The nurses had already given her release papers after her check up a few hours earlier– she had just been waiting for Wolfgang to arrive...

Oh god. How had this become her life?

"You still have the key to the apartment?"

"Yes." Kala had gone from agony to complete numbness.

"I will see you in three days then."

The line clicked once and went dead. Kala stared blankly at the screen, sniffling uncontrollably.

 

*** *** ***

Wolfgang was fidgety.

In the driver's seat in front of him Felix kept shooting him amused glances. Nomi, unable to ignore his nervousness and excitement alternated between drumming her fingers on the dashboard and grinning widely.

It was almost over. Whispers was out of the game for good. BPO was now under their control, and the transition of power had happened without the bloodshed Jonas had feared. Lila was still in the wind, but it seemed more and more likely they would be able to track her down quietly. It was the end of an era; a new one was beginning. Even the sluggish London traffic seemed bright and alive. He was going to see Kala.

As if in answer to his thought, she was beside him in the backseat. In an instant Wolfgang's joy evaporated. He or Nomi must have made a noise because Felix was suddenly looking around nervously.

"What? What is it?"

"Nothing," managed Wolfgang, and he followed Kala back into her hospital room, so his friend wouldn't hear him talking to thin air.

Kala was curled up in a ball on her bed. He could taste the salt of tears in his mouth. His own selfish fear mixed with her despair.

"You are going back to him." It wasn't a question.

"No!" Kala sat bolt upright, "Well yes, but not like you think."

"What do I think?" asked Wolfgang tightly, he felt rather like a punctured balloon, whirling aimlessly, deflating rapidly.

"I am still ending things," said Kala firmly despite the tears still sliding down her face. "I am going to Paris, and I am going ask for a divorce."

Wolfgang could only blink stupidly. Kala went on, her gaze not quite meeting his.

"I should have done it long ago. It's just," she took an uneven breath, "I wanted to love him so badly."

"I don't think we get to choose that." Inexplicably Wolfgang thought of his mother.

Kala seemed to see him for the first time. "No, we don't do we?"

Wolfgang still felt as if the room were whirling around him, "So what now?"

Kala seemed to sit straighter, smoothing her hospital gown over her knees. Wolfgang felt in every bone of his body, what that composure had cost her.

"I want to do it right this time around," She looked at her hands, laced together. "But I need a little bit of time."

Wolfgang found himself nodding, because when had he ever been able to deny her anything. "Ok."

"And," Kala's eyes, bloodshot, but very gentle met his, "I need some distance, just for a little while, so I can figure this out."

The impact of that was softer than he had expected.

"Of course," he replied and tried for a soft smile. Her expression told him exactly how ineffective it was.

Very gently he took her hand in his. It felt electric. They were so close to each other. He thought of how he had reached for her despite the glass cage and the blockers. Did she remember that?

"Until we meet again."

She surprised him by raising his hand to her mouth and placing a gentle kiss on his knuckle, just above where the skin had split.

"See you soon," she promised.

When he returned to the car, they had moved about a millimeter forward, and Nomi had her hands twisted tightly together, her face a poorly constructed mask of patience.

"Lets go," said Wolfgang, breaking the silence without preamble. "Back to the hotel."

"What?" Felix craned his neck around trying to see Wolfgang in the backseat.

"Now."

If Wolfgang had been fully present, it would have raised warning bells, that Felix didn't argue further. But he wasn't present at all. He recalled sitting numbly in his seat until Felix prodded him out, leading him down a non-descript hallway, and into a room whose number he couldn't remember.

He didn't fully come to himself until he was seated on the end of one of two luxurious queen sized beds and Felix had shoved a can of beer and a cigarette into his hands.

Wolfgang blinked at the contrast of the cold metal against his skin. Felix waited patiently until his gaze drifted from the beer, to the floor, to Felix's legs sprawled awkwardly across the rolling chair he had pulled up, to his face, level with his.

"Are you a space alien?" asked Felix cracking open his own beer and taking a long gulp.

"What?" Wolfgang blinked at his can a few more times.

"Are. You. A. Space. Alien?" Felix snapped open the can for him.

Wolfgang took a cautious sip. The familiar act seemed to ground him slightly.

"Aren't all aliens from space?"

Felix rolled his eyes, but seemed to be relieved. "Christ, I have no idea why I bother."

Wolfgang let out a weak snort of amusement.

Felix's expression became serious again, "Are you going to be ok?"

"Yeah."

"You sure?"

Yes," replied Wolfgang with more conviction.

Felix scrutinized him for a long moment before he leaned back, satisfied.

"Good," he decided, taking another long pull from his beer. "Then can you tell me what the FUCK is going on?"

 

*** *** ***

The apartment was stunning. Because of course it was. Of course Rajan had picked the one street in Paris that seemed to be absent of half smoked cigarettes, blackened blobs of chewing gum, and little balls of litter. Of course the walk to the bright yellow door had been lined with hanging baskets of flowers and wind chimes singing softly as she passed. Of course not even a single chip of paint was out of place.

Kala felt a lump the size of a bowling ball settle in her throat as she walked up to that sunny doorstep. She felt like she was squaring off with an enemy, not entering a place that should have been home.

With one shaking hand she leveled the key to the brass doorknob, and then... She couldn't.

A strangled sob escaped her and she felt herself collapse heavily on the stone steps.

God. It had been so easy to pretend when she was away, so easy to forget him and all the pain she would cause him. But now, now it was staring her in the face.

It would have been so much easier if Rajan had been a bad man, but he wasn't, he was unerringly good, a true hero, willing to sacrifice everything to root out corruption in his company, willing to drop everything to make sure she was safe.

A good man: a rare commodity in this world. And, Kala admitted to herself, what she had always known, not what she wanted. Not in the slightest.

"Shh, shh," murmured Riley, running a hand through Kala's hair, Kala realized her crying had gotten quite loud, what would the neighbors think?

Nomi was beside her too, wrapping her thin arms around Kala's shoulders.

"It is all such a waste," said Kala bitterly.

Her cluster-mate didn't reply immediately, but merely stroked a hand over her shoulders.

"What can we do?" asked Riley softly.

Kala sighed, and brushed off her dress. She knew Rajan would be there soon but she couldn't bring herself to enter the flat.

"I will need a place to stay," she confessed, "Would you help?"

Riley nodded, "Of course."

"And," Kala settled into a more comfortable position, "I think I need to do this alone."

Riley nodded and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. Nomi gave her a loose hug.

"Good luck."

 

*** *** ***

"Hi there," Rajan was standing a few paces away, looking careworn and slightly rumbled in a linen button up and slacks.

"Hi," replied Kala, and then indicated the space next to her on the stair. It was a beautiful day, and the street was nearly empty. "I thought we could do this outside."

*** *** ***

She told him everything.

She had even brought diagrams and medical printouts. And in the end, because it was Rajan, and they shared the same scientific love for evidence he seemed to accept the fact that she was another type of human easier than the fact she was in love with another man.

They sat in silence for a long time, while the shadows steadily grew around them, and Kala had to dig around in her suitcase for a sweater. Rajan seemed to alternate between poring over the medical files that Nomi had taken from the BPO database and staring into space.

"Does he treat you well?" he asked at last, voice almost inaudible over the chirping of sparrows and the distant hum of vehicles.

"Yes," replied Kala. "Very well."

"I suppose," Rajan seemed to struggle very hard for composure, "That is the most anyone could hope for."

Kala couldn't answer. She had expected more tears than this. But when it came down to it all she could feel was exhaustion.

"Do your parents know?"

Kala shook her head. She had called her mother on the cab ride over, but she hadn't done much but reassure them that she was safe and tell them that she wasn't sure when she would be home.

"I will tell them," she promised.

"And I –" Rajan swallowed, "I will consult my lawyer about the divorce."

Kala nodded. Even with her limited knowledge of the law she knew that divorce would not be an easy thing. The scandal and shame of it alone would be monumental, not only to them but also to their families.

"It will take at least a year," he warned, "You know how these things are."

Kala nodded again. "I want you to tell the truth," she said quietly, "It will be easier if you have evidence of infidelity. I have prepared a few documents."

"Kala, -"

"You did nothing wrong, Rajan, you don't deserve to suffer."

He closed the folder on his lap, the one full of scans of her brain, "You might not be able to return to Bombay for a long time."

"I know," Kala forced her voice steady. "I will stay here. It will be better for everyone that way."

"And you will be here with him?" Rajan's voice was sharp, betraying anger for the first time since he had arrived.

"Yes." Kala raised her chin. She still had the guilty feeling in her chest, but she didn't intend to lie to him again.

Rajan met her eye and then looked away quickly. She did him the service of pretending not to notice his tears.

"You will want these back then?" he offered her the folder. "I will address the role Rasal Pharmaceuticals played in the harm to –uh – your kind."

"Thank you," Kala accepted the papers and lowered her eyes, which were starting to prickle, "We will find another supplier if we should need blockers again."

"Well that is everything, then I guess," Rajan stood suddenly, brushing pebbles off of his slacks, he kept his face averted.

"I guess so," replied Kala, barely more than a whisper.

Rajan turned back to cast an eye over the flat. "It's yours if you want it, I am staying at a hotel –"

"No – no," interrupted Kala unable to handle anymore of his kindness, "I found my own place."

Rajan nodded as if he had expected this, and backed away a few more steps. Kala suddenly felt like she should say something. But what? There was nothing that could fix this.

Swiftly she worked the ring off of her ring, and then passed it to him, careful not to touch his skin. "Rajan I- I –" she began in response to the agony that suddenly twisted his expression.

"It fine," he brushed her off, closing his hand over the ring and then tucking it in his pocket. When he finally met her eyes, he tried for a smile, "My lawyer will be in contact, ok? Take care Kala."

She nodded mutely, and then he was gone, striding swiftly down the street.

She did not move for a very long time.

But when she did , when she finally managed to rise and brush the leaves off of the skirt of her dress. When she managed to walk down the stairs, working past the numb tingles in her legs, the thing rattling around in the back of her mind finally broke off and blew away, leaving only emptiness in its place.

Potential.

Chapter Text

Riley appeared beside her when she was halfway down the street, "I found a place, nothing fancy but –"

" – Good," interjected Kala. She had enough of fancy for a while.

Riley smiled, "Follow me."

True to her word, the place was not much to look at. Although situated conveniently close to a small market and the Eiffel tower, the complex was thoroughly mismatched and scrubby. The owner of the apartment was waiting beside a shabby ice cream vendor to buzz her in, and he prattled on in broken English as they passed not one, but two cast-iron gates into a weedy courtyard.

"Just up zee stairs, 'ere," and the man smiled and gave her a little bow, before passing the keys over and making his exit.

"You already paid online," whispered Riley, "Two months rent."

"Thank you," replied Kala fervently, "I owe you."

Her apartment was on the other side of the tiny courtyard, which the complex towered over on all sides, through yet another iron gate, and then up three flights of creaking wooden stairs. Kala suspected she would be in excellent shape at the end of two months.

The door was a bit sticky, but done in reassuringly thick dark wood, the same as the stairs. Kala had to fiddle with the keys, but finally the door swung open.

She couldn't help the little sigh escaping her mouth.

It was the smallest place she had ever lived in, just one bedroom, and a tiny bathroom, the kitchen with a peeling fake granite island crammed into the living room which was composed of one futon couch, a TV and the smallest washer and dryer set she had ever seen.

She loved it.

The kitchen/ laundry-room/ dining/ sitting room area all culminated in a set of balcony doors that took up the whole back wall and looked into the courtyard, and more directly into the unit across from hers.

"Is it ok?" asked Riley a little nervously.

Kala opened the doors and was greeted by a flutter of wind that lifted the clothing strung on lines across the balcony beside hers and the welcome scent of someone cooking something spicy. It wasn't Indian, but perhaps something Latin American, but either way, she felt her spirits lift.

"It's perfect," she assured her.

Riley gave her hand an affectionate squeeze. And then she was alone.

Kala wandered around her new apartment, it didn't take her very long.

Standing on the narrow balcony she very suddenly realized that this was the first time she had ever lived by herself. The thought of that kind of made her itch to call her parents again, but also kind of made her want to make this place her own.

Two months and then what? She would have to call home and break the news, but what after that. Rajan was right, it would not be wise return home until the divorce was finalized and the scandal had died down. So this was it. She had no job for the first time in years; nothing to tie her down. She had wisely kept her personal finances separate from Rajan's so she had a little extra money. The world was her oyster.

And she wouldn't be alone.

Still, her heart hurt at the cost to her family; their reputation had been considerably elevated since Kala had gotten married, and her father's restaurant in particular had been bustling. She knew that all would end. Perhaps if she got a job she could start sending money back, at least to help her sister, but she knew they wouldn't accept it.

They are going to be ok, she repeated to herself over and over until it seemed true. They would never ask her to stay away, but she knew that it would reduce the attention on them if she did.

In truth, Kala missed her home fiercely. But she knew she wasn't ready to go back. Not yet. Not for a long time.

"It's going to be ok." she said out loud to the empty apartment, and for once the silence that was her only reply did not scare her.

Her cluster was beside her. They were there if she chose too look, but she didn't. Instead she rolled her suitcase into the bedroom and started to unpack.

The red teddy that Wolfgang had picked up instead of his Glock was crumpled at the bottom of her luggage, surrounded by a litter of ticket stubs and food wrappers. Kala felt a choked sort of laugh escape her as she picked it up and brushed some lint off the front.

Suddenly she felt him behind her, close enough to touch, electricity prickling up and down the back of her neck.

All she would have to do is lean back a few inches and he would wrap his arms around her. As much as he liked to tease, she knew that his restraint was nominal when it came to her.

Her cheeks warmed as she remembered a few vivid moments of their first time together. The way he gasped in her ear as he neared the end, the sound torn from his throat, he had been trying so hard to hold back for her. One day she would find a way to tell him he didn't have to.

"Soon," she whispered out loud and felt him leave, with just the softest suggestion of a kiss to the top of her head.

The guilt was still there. But at least now it seemed to have an end. Kala looked thoughtfully at the piece of lingerie for a moment longer and then slipped into the set of drawers crowded into the corner of the room.

Soon.

The next few days were a bustle of activity and paperwork, and a lot of sitting in the Indian embassy trying to figure out a visa. Time started to run together punctuated by moments of perfect clarity.

Such as the moment one morning Wolfgang had appeared to her just as she was carrying a load of groceries up the stairs, back in his favorite leather jacket. He had kissed her so thoroughly that she had dropped her bags and had to chase cans of chickpeas down three flights of stairs the moment he had released her.

Pulling away he hadn't said anything, but merely disappeared as she wobbled a little. His emotions had been a curious mix: regret and jubilation, excitement and self-disgust.

He must have known, somehow, what was going to happen next, because only moments later her phone rang with an unknown number.

It was Rajan's lawyer. The papers were drawn up. The news had gotten out to the press. Predictably her name was being splashed all over the tabloid magazines, followed by a few choice insults. Somewhere in Los Angeles, Lito sighed in sympathy.

Kala wasn't sure how to feel. She had told the lawyer to set up a meeting in a café tomorrow. She then collapsed onto the couch still, holding the can of chickpeas. She didn't think of Wolfgang. Or at least she gave it a try.

She wasn't how long she sat there before muffled singing and the banging of pots from her neighbor brought her back to the present with a jolt.

Sun was leaning against the island watching her. She was dressed in her prison uniform again; Kala hadn't had a chance to see her before she had flown back to Korea. Shaking herself free of her stupor, Kala sent her cluster-mate a small smile.

"I am fine," she assured her.

Sun nodded, looking uncharacteristically nervous. The case was going well, Kala knew that at least, although it had been going on for weeks. But the Korean news sites that Kala and Nomi followed kept promising that things would be over soon. So Kala had an inkling about why Sun was so unsettled, but in the case of this particular cluster-mate she knew prying would not be well received.

"Do you want to talk about something?"

"No," Sun shook her head quickly and then left without another word.

Kala repressed a sigh.

She had to call her parents.

*** *** ***

It was a cool evening after a long frustrating day trying to figure out if her degree still meant something in France. The predictably harrowing meeting with the lawyer had been it's own kind of awful, but in an unsurprising act of consideration Rajan had sent a female lawyer, one that thankfully did not call her any of the demeaning names the tabloids currently were.

Her parents were loud and upset when she called. Daya hardly said anything at all, which was a blow in of itself.

Wrapping her scarf more firmly around her shoulders, Kala took the long way back to her apartment. She was wandering past a row of shops when Nomi appeared beside her.

"Hi," she said.

"Hi," her cluster-mate smiled shyly and Kala caught the flash of the ring on her finger. It was fitting, she thought, one marriage ending - another beginning.

"You should get that." Nomi pointed through a shop window and Kala came to a stop.

It was a set of white china elephants, trunks raised joyously, arranged largest to smallest in the window of what appeared to be some sort of second-hand store.

"Oh, I don't know," murmured Kala, stopping to look nonetheless, "I haven't even decided if I am going to stay here yet."

Nomi gave her a very Nomi-esque look of motherly affection and deep skepticism. Kala couldn't help grinning a little in return.

"It will help you feel more at home," Nomi smiled reassuringly, and Kala found herself in her and Amanita's decidedly cozy flat.

"I had nothing when my parents threw me out. It took a long time for anywhere to feel like home. But then I was wandering past this second-hand shop, just full of all these old, cracked, dingy antiques, the kind of things that my mother would never buy, and I don't know it made me feel like I could do it after all. Like I was taking control."

"Hmm," Kala tilted her head, returning to Paris and scrutinizing the elephants, "I do like them."

And Nomi was right, she did feel better as she arranged them into an orderly line once home, there was a shelf by the bedroom window that fit them just right. Like it had been meant for this purpose.

Wolfgang was sitting on the bed behind her when she turned.

"I like it," he said.

"Me too." Kala moved so she faced him with their knees touching and he easily took her hand. Why did she think this distance thing was a good idea?

"How are you holding up?" she asked.

"Good." Wolfgang shrugged, tilting his head back to look up at her, "Felix is helping me move, and the clean up work from BPO is progressing well. Jonas helped a lot."

"That is a first," muttered Kala.

"I miss you," he admitted. "Felix has been telling me amusing stories about you."

"Oh?" Kala adopted a tone of airy indifference as she permitted Wolfgang to pull her onto his lap so that she was straddling him. He let out an amused snort.

"Do you know what I love most about you?"

"Hmm," Kala tried to look him in the eyes, but he had buried his face in her neck. "The fact I know your most embarrassing childhood stories and could use them against you at any moment?"

She felt him grin and slyly shake his head.

"The fact I kidnapped a gang member at gunpoint?"

He actually laughed at that, and pulled away from her so that she could see his face. "Close but not quite."

Kala pretended to think, before giving up. "Tell me."

Wolfgang just smirked and began to place a line of kisses down the side of her neck. A longing sigh escaped her before she could stop it and she felt his hands grip her waist.

She felt him hesitate a moment and then she let her head fall back as he pulled down on the neckline of her top, scattering kisses over the newly exposed skin. For a moment his hands grasped her desperately tight, and she felt that unspoken thing between them, the fear, the pain that his abduction had caused squirm between them. But then his hands were gentle again, and his mouth light and teasing.

He was too good at hiding, Kala realized. He was so used to it that he forgot that he didn't need to. Firmly she pushed back on his shoulders, and he let himself fall back on the bed.

"Distance," she reminded him gently, and he let out a little sigh of submission.

"I think Sun has a crush," said Wolfgang suddenly, as if this revelation were only just occurring to him.

Kala rolled her eyes affectionately, "About time you noticed." She laid down next him, not quite touching, "Perhaps you can go talk some sense into her."

No way," Wolfgang sent her a dimpled grin, "She can beat me up."

Kala laughed and reached out a hand to gentle swat the side of his head. Wolfgang caught her hand and placed it in his hair, sighing contentedly when she began to stroke.

Kala let herself meet his eyes. They were very blue in the sunlight streaming through the window. She couldn't help but run a hand down his face, catching where the gold shone off of the tips of his eyelashes. "You never did tell me what you loved most about me."

"You said you wanted distance," his face became very innocent, before he chuckled at the murderous expression on Kala's face.

"Coward."

"Damn right."

"Tell me!"

Wolfgang rolled over so he was facing her fully; his grin was equal parts radiant and shit-eating.

"Everything." And with that he vanished.

Chapter Text

There was a distinct air of celebration as Sun exited the prison courtroom. Not applause exactly, everyone had too much decorum for that, maybe a few very stifled cheers. She supposed it was well justified. Mere minutes ago Joon-Ki's sentence had been passed – a lifetime in prison.

His eyes had bulged as the judge spoke, and Sun had the distinctly satisfying opportunity to watch every fearful whimper and terrified tear from him go unanswered.

But even as they un-cuffed her and passed her a bag full of the clothing she had been relieved of when she turned herself in, she couldn't quite describe her mood as joyful. Bittersweet was perhaps more accurate.

It was back to the real world now, back to her dog and her teacher, but also her big empty apartment and her lonely office. Back to cleaning up the mess Joon-Ki made of Bak Financial, and the only slightly smaller mess that was BPO.

Her old cellmates had each rejoiced at her return, Ming-Jung had even gone so far as to lift her in air with the force of her enthusiastic hug. Which was impressive given her size and age. But now she would be leaving them again, her friends. This time for good.

"You will visit though?" Soo-Jin implored, her eyes bright with tears.

"Of course," promised Sun.

Even as she left the prison, however, she came to a resolution to do better than that.

None of her friends deserved the life they had been given. Well, maybe the one that pushed her father down an elevator shaft, but even so Sun was quite sure it had not been unprovoked. She had not been blind to the plight of women in her country, but she had never been sure how to help. Now she was determined, and as the de facto CEO of Bak Financial perhaps she was in a unique position to help.

It was this mission in mind, and that curious sense of lightness mixed with sadness, that she walked out of the prison with her head held high and her face blank. As she exited her eyes skittered around the scene, still instinctively wary.

The prison gates in front of her were open. The humidity was oppressive. Reporters weren't allowed within the prison gates but she could see them collecting outside, cameras black and glittering in the mid-day heat.

Of more present concern, however, was the sleek police car parked directly in front of the prison stairs. And even more alarmingly was the tall figure of Detective Mun, slouching against the driver's side door bearing some sort of iced drink.

Sun could almost hear the camera's zooming in and gritted her teeth.

Mun had been nothing but professional since she landed in Korea, barely exchanging more than a sentence with her outside of the courtroom. In fact the only time he had spoken to her directly was minutes after she had stepped off the plane into a thicket of officers, Mun in the front, leaning on a cane, and dangling a pair of handcuffs in front of him.

"Sorry 'bout this," he had muttered good naturedly, as he bound her hands together. There was just a hint of satisfaction in his voice as if he were remembering the last time he had tried to do this and she had beat him to a pulp. Sun had merely rolled her eyes, and made a point of treading on his toes as they led her away.

But beyond that he had barely spared her a glance in the weeks she had been home. And she was fine with that. It made things easier. Simple. Simple was never a bad thing. Right?

It appeared he was changing up tactics.

"Your police escort," said the guard from behind her, when he saw Sun had come to a dead stop.

"Ms. Bak," Mun tipped his head, Sun still caught the flash of his mischievous smile. "Congratulations on your release."

"What's this?" she indicated the drink still clutched in his left hand.

He shrugged innocently and offered it to her, "It's a hot day out."

Sun eyed him with no small amount of suspicion and then against her better judgment accepted it.

He opened the passenger door for her without any further comment, and Sun got in, buckling her seat belt, eyeing up the impressive amount of gear attached to the dashboard, and taking a cautious sip of her drink.

She felt both her eyebrows involuntarily shoot up in surprise. He had gotten her favorite kind of milk tea, brewed exactly the way she liked it. Hmmm.

A closer inspection of the cup confirmed her suspicions. It was exactly her favorite kind of milk tea, from her favorite teashop, the one just a few minutes from her teacher's house.

Mun affected an air of casual ignorance, whistling cheerfully, as Sun went through these series of revelations.

The flash of cameras caused her to flinch, as they slowed to avoid a few journalists on the way out of the gates, but before long they were on the open road, bright blue skies overhead.

Mun was still whistling and steadfastly ignoring Sun's raised eyebrows.

"This is my favorite," she conceded at last, when it appeared the eyebrows weren't working.

"Oh really?" he shot her an innocent grin, "What a coincidence."

Fine. Sun rolled her eyes at him. But found she couldn't pretend to be irritated with him.

Without a word she rolled down her window and shut her eyes as the wind whipped her hair about, leaning her face out the window like a dog. A grin stretched across her face. The clamor of the prison and even the voices in her head were left behind as she focused on the roar of the air in her ears.

Distantly, she heard Mun stop his whistling to laugh softly. Abruptly he switched lanes, missing the correct exit.

"What are you doing?" she asked drawing her head back into the car, slightly alarmed despite herself.

"Taking the scenic route." And he laughed again when Sun nodded in approval, taking a covert sip of her drink.

They cruised on for sometime before Mun finally turned off the highway, when the police radio interrupted their silence. Reluctantly, but feeling about 20 kilograms lighter Sun pulled her head into the car again.

Mun took this as a cue to start talking.

For some reason this didn't bother her. It was sort of nice, light, absent of the emotions that came with talking to her cluster. He told her about the news, some new restaurants that had opened up near his house, even some gossip about one of the teen-y pop groups Sun could never get into.

After sometime, stuck in the omnipresent traffic that thickened every kilometer they inched towards Seoul Sun found herself offering some information in return. She had learned how to knit. She hated it. Soo-Jin had drawn her another picture of her dog. She missed her dog. She had pulled a muscle practicing a kick during her recreation hours.

That last kernel of information sparked a conversation about kick-boxing, and then suddenly Sun had a lot more to say.

If Mun noticed this change he didn't comment on it and instead told her easily about his recent competitions, his teacher yelling at him after he came back from his fight with Sun bruised and chagrinned.

"I had to stay an extra two hours after that, and you should have seen his face" he told her with a rueful grin. "He couldn't believe you beat me twice."

"Three times," corrected Sun and when he laughed she found herself smiling in return.

She had just finished her drink, savoring it, when they pulled up to her teacher's house. He answered her questioning expression before she even opened her mouth.

"I thought you might want to pick up your dog first," he told her as he opened the door for her again. Sun quickly hid her reaction in her drink.

"Are you trying to –" Sun struggled for words – what was he doing? Trying to seduce her? No that seemed a bit strong. To win her affections? Well that one had been clear enough. Back when he had the nerve to kiss her – to kiss her – while they fought. She hadn't actually taken the time to dwell on how that had made her feel. Maybe thought about it passing once or twice. Really, she had more pressing issues.

Mun seemed to be waiting for her to finish that sentence. His eyes were carefully innocent; his smile barely held in. Sun suddenly had the feeling she wasn't fooling anyone.

"- trying to make up for handcuffing me?" she finished lamely and did an about face, marching away to knock on her teacher's gate.

As if things weren't bad enough Lito was leaning casually against the door, back to his colourful self in a bold pair of sea-green slacks. Sun resolutely ignored him and his smug grin.

"Nomi was right, he is cute," commented Lito.

Sun sent him a threatening glare.

Mun had caught up to her and was wearing a grin almost identical to Lito's. It was a disturbing combination.

"So," he said learning against the door, while Sun knocked even harder, "What's his name?"

"Huh?" asked Sun, distracted by the fact Nomi had joined Lito and was also ogling Mun, beaming at the two of them.

"Your dog."

"Oh," Sun seized on the distraction, "She is named Jinmee."

Mun nodded. But suddenly he was irrelevant and so were Lito and Nomi and good god – was Will there too - because the gate was opening and her puppy was in front of her squeezing through the crack to leap into her arms.

Wisely, no one even tried to make conversation with her for sometime after that, although she was not oblivious to the majority of her cluster arriving to provide their very unasked for opinions on Mun. Or to the man himself, warmly greeting her teacher and seizing the few bags that she had left behind, slipping them into the backseat of his car.

It wasn't until they had arrived at her apartment building, Jinmee shedding enthusiastically onto the seat behind them that she realized she hadn't thanked him.

And it wasn't until they were in her apartment, after a very awkward elevator ride wherein Jinmee wove madly between their legs and Mun was carrying a large box of dog toys, that she finally managed to say something.

"You –" Sun cringed slightly at the way she couldn't quite look at his face. "You have been very kind," at least her cluster wasn't still visiting, "Thank you Detective," and when she smiled it was completely genuine.

He might have pinked slightly, but hid it well, he was hesitating by her open door; "It's no problem Ms. Bak, truly, if there is anything else –"

" – No, no," interrupted Sun quickly, "You have already done so much –"

"Can I see you again?" he blurted out.

"What?" Sun managed.

Mun shifted his weight from foot to foot, and for the first time that day he looked sort of vulnerable. Sun instantly decided she liked that look on him.

"Can I see you again?" he repeated, "Like for a drink or even to fight." He trailed off with a nervous smile that had thoroughly unexpected effects on Sun's chest area.

Get it together, she scolded herself, she wasn't a blushing teenager. It was just because it had been a while.

"Yes," she said before she could second-guess herself.

His answering smile put Sun in the mind of someone that had just found out he or she had won the lottery. "Ok," he said, "Uh which one?"

"Either," Sun tried for an unaffected shrug, "Both."

"Ok," he smiled again, and then started backing away; it was slightly gratifying to see him stumble slightly over a dog toy on the floor. "I will be in touch."

Sun nodded, remembering he had the number to Nomi's burner phone which she had shoved in her pocket while getting dressed at the jail. Oh well, at least this way she didn't need to buy a new one. It wasn't like she had anyone else to call. Her work phone was no doubt where she had last left it – in the backseat of her company car.

Mun gave her one last smile before leaving and Sun found herself staring at the door in a slightly vacant fashion until Jinmee bumped her hand with her wet nose and she started.

Back to the real world indeed.

"I told you so," said Nomi very smugly from somewhere in her kitchen.

Sun groaned and threw herself face first into her bed.

*** *** ***

It wasn't because of any kind of big event. Not some emotional confession or romantic gesture.

It was just one day Kala appeared behind him in the bathroom mirror, right as he was trimming the stubble under his chin. He had slept at Felix's house. Well, slept was a little generous, they had gone out the night before to celebrate Wolfgang putting all of his stuff in storage and returned sometime in the pale hours of morning. He had a nap and was battling a roaring hangover at Felix's house.

Kala had clearly decided to stay home that day and was in a set of bright orange pajamas, the kind with frills at the bottom. Her hair piled on top of her head, but some strands had already begun to plot their escape. The image was completed by a steaming mug of tea; so large she had to use both hands.

"Come here." There was no beating around the bush. She leaned against the sink so they could make proper eye contact. "I am ready. Come here now."

"Ok," said Wolfgang.

 

*** *** ***

"I am not afraid," said Sun, before he had even realized the seat he was sitting in was the not the same one he had fallen asleep on minutes ago. This one was definitely going in a different direction, and all the signs around him were in Korean, so that was a dead giveaway.

"Ok," replied Wolfgang, feeling a bit muzzy, "I didn't ask."

"Sorry," Sun cracked her knuckles, "I thought you were Nomi again."

"S'ok," Wolfgang shifted awkwardly in his seat. Sun was also on a train of some sort but had somehow folded her legs all up underneath her. She looked miles more comfortable than him. Damn her.

He watched her for a moment longer before she began to look irritated, "You can go now."

"Right." Wolfgang closed his eyes, but had to hide his grin when he heard her sigh a few moments later.

"I might be nervous." Sun finally began, breaking the long silence between them. "But not afraid. It's just a date."

"Nothing to be afraid of," said Wolfgang, more to himself than her.

"Exactly," replied Sun.

"Exactly."

*** *** ***

Paris should have been unfamiliar to him, after all he had never been there before, but as soon as he stepped off of the train platform his feet found themselves walking a path he knew almost by instinct.

Kala was waiting in the apartment, she had some sort of online job interview just a few moments before his train had come in. Wolfgang was glad for the walk, he needed a moment just to orient himself as to what was going on.

It had all been a blur. He had barely said three words to a very smug looking Felix after exiting the bathroom. Felix had said considerably more than three words, but he wasn't really listening.

But now he was here. And serve him right, he did feel like a fucking space alien. How was he so emotionally unprepared for this? He had almost a month of waiting to wrap his head around the idea of living with Kala, of meeting her, of actually being hers.

There was no way this was going to work out – something was almost guaranteed to go wrong.

His phone buzzed in his pocket as he rounded the corner to Kala's apartment, he answered without looking at the ID.

"You aren't going to fuck it up," said Felix promptly. Wolfgang let out a snort despite himself.

"Got some hidden psychic abilities you forgot to tell me about too?"

"No," Felix let out a dignified sniff, "You just happen to be fucking predictable."

"Kind of feels like I am going to fuck it up," Wolfgang surveyed the street out of habit before crossing over to the iron gate outside of the complex.

"Nah."

"That's all you have to say?" asked Wolfgang mildly surprised.

Felix laughed, "All of my Conan quotes are wildly inappropriate for the situation."

Wolfgang thought about it, punching in the door code from Kala's memory and slipping past the gate. "Yeah," he agreed. "Best not."

"Good luck brother," replied Felix softly, and hung up.

Now it was just Wolfgang and a set of stairs. So far no explosions. That was a good start. Didn't feel real but, still, no explosions was a good thing.

Suddenly, in a rush, he took the stairs two at a time nearly bowling over a woman with vividly pink hair and a pair of nurses scrubs. She shot him an amused look.

Kala's door was the first one after the stairs.

He knocked. His heart was throbbing wildly in his throat.

He heard her voice out loud for the first time, slightly muffled by the door. It sounded kind of like heaven, she was telling him to come in.

Kala was standing by the sink in a bright yellow dress; she seemed to be washing dishes. Her hair was still all piled on top of her head and there was pencil stuck in it.

"Hi," he said sounding exactly as nervous as he felt. Something in his mind was humming, like speaker crackling with anticipation.

"You brought flowers," she sounded surprised but pleased. Wolfgang belatedly remembered the sunflowers he held, tucked under his arm.

He offered them to her with a confident smile, or an attempt at one. Fuck. He used to be good at this kind of thing. Or at least the seduction part.

Kala looked at them and then suddenly burst into laughter, and he couldn't help joining her.

It felt as if prongs of electricity were shooting between them. They were so close.

"This is ridiculous," she said, drying her hands and walking over.

"Completely." Wolfgang offered her the flowers again, "Nice to meet you, I am Wolfgang."

Kala grinned and he caught just a hint of shyness, before she took the flowers and set them aside. "Kala," she replied.

His chest was doing this throbbing thing again, and that was making it difficult to speak or move, but luckily Kala didn't seem to be suffering from the same paralysis as he was and moved closer, raising her hand until it cupped his cheek.

He wasn't quite sure how to describe how that felt. Fucking amazing didn't start to cover it. He was fairly sure he was shaking from head to toe.

She didn't give him time to mull it over however, because she was very suddenly kissing him and it was best thing ever. It was perfect. It was mindless bliss. It was like being the most present he had ever been, but also like having some sort of out of body experience. It was better than anything he had ever experienced.

It was like coming home for the first time.

Chapter Text

He was waiting for her by a park bench, lounging in a pair of shorts and a white t-shirt. It was a pleasantly breezy day, and for once not too humid. Sun took her time, approaching silently in her flats. He had his head bent over a book and showed a surprisingly low level of situational awareness even as she drew nearer. She was only a meter from him before he looked up.

"What are you reading?" asked Sun, partially because she wasn't sure where to start the conversation and partially because she was curious as to what could cause him to be so distracted.

Mun shrugged, perhaps a little embarrassed, and scratched the back of his neck. He showed her the cover: a brightly coloured illustration of a man in a black duster and a fedora, tipped low, heroically poised in a dark alleyway.

"A – a detective novel?" Sun raised an eyebrow in disbelief as he took his book back. She could see that it was well thumbed through, dog-eared and thoroughly loved.

"It looks – uh –" Tact was not Sun's strong suit, but she was prepared to plow through for his sake when he finished her thought for her.

"- Like absolute trash?" Mun stood easily and carefully tucked the book into the leather satchel that hung from one shoulder, also well loved and worn. "Oh it is."

"Why read it then?" she asked as she fell into step with him. She had never liked reading much. Fighting had always been her great and singular love.

"My uncle owned a used bookstore, I grew up on cheap crime thrillers, detective tales," he shot a Sun a grin, "and those romance novels, you know the ones that old ladies like, where the heroine is always breathless and well-dressed and waiting for her brave warrior lover to come back to save her."

Sun scrutinized him, as they made their way down the street, people weaving around them left and right. "And you imagine yourself to be like one of the heroes from the book?"

"At first I suppose," Mun shrugged and neatly dodged a pile of melons outside a small grocer, "Got that knocked out of me pretty fast though. Now I just read them because I like the idea of visiting another place for a while, living a life that is similar to my own, but where the complication's are someone else's."

"I think I understand that," admitted Sun, and then didn't elaborate. Mun didn't press her.

"Here it is," he said suddenly, tugging her elbow lightly to get her to stop, spinning dramatically to face the shop fronts. "You are going to love this place."

Sun stared in confusion and then unspeakable horror at the sight in front of her.

It was one of those couple cafés that had been overwhelmingly popular in her university days. Complete with dress up and a plethora of cartoon cat decals, gamboling around a very pink display of heart shaped objects.

Oh. Please no.

Mun watched her try to conceal her reaction for a solid minute before bursting out in fit of laughter, nearly doubling over.

Sun blinked in confusion.

Without missing a beat, Mun smoothly reached around her to unlock a plain black door she hadn't noticed, the one sitting inches from the heart covered one next to it.

...Why that little...

"You should have seen your face," he choked out, holding the door open for Sun, and ignoring the half-hearted glare she sent him. That absolute -

The door opened onto a miniscule lobby, Mun lead the way up a flight of narrow metal stairs, painted white.

Sun tried for a disproving sigh, it came out more like amusement.

"Do you enjoy antagonizing me?"

"Very much so," he replied with utmost honesty, before winking.

Sun had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from returning the smile he sent her over his shoulder. The one that she had begun to unconsciously associate with him, a hint of mischief, tempered with a disconcerting sweetness.

Instead of a witty retort she just let of a sort of aggrieved huff of air. Luckily he didn't seem to notice, energetically bounding up at least six more flights of stairs before coming to another door, and punching in a code into the box beside it.

This door opened onto a very mundane looking hallway, also painted white, and lit by a single window at the opposite end.

It looked like any other mid-income residential building in Seoul.

Sun raised her eyebrows.

Mun grinned, "Just trust me," he said and them made a motion as if he wanted to take her hand, and then changed his mind halfway through.

They stopped outside of the very last door on the right at the end of the hall. Mun dug around in his pocket for a set of keys, and then paused with them dangling from his right hand.

"Now," he fiddled the keys in his hand, "I don't want you to think I am being forward, it is just this is just the only way to access it."

Sun felt her eyebrows rise a little higher, "I am intrigued." And she was. Almost unduly so.

Mun met her eye and smiled, before unlocking the door, and indicating she should enter.

"Is this your apartment?" asked Sun, craning her neck to take in the contents of the room. It was absolutely packed with books, colourful tattered paperbacks collecting on every surface: the counter of the utilitarian kitchen, the soft looking couch, crowding the plants sitting on the ample windowsill. She instantly liked it. It reminded her of him: simple, light, open.

"Uh, yes," Mun kicked off his shoes, "As I said, I am not trying to be forward," he was rooting around in the fridge before pulling out a white cooler bag. "It is just how we get to the roof."

"The roof?"

"Yeah," Mun jerked his head towards a set of stairs she had overlooked, they were narrow and pressed against the back wall of his living room, "This way."

Sun set her shoes aside and followed him up. She was met with a gust of fresh air at the top and the unexpected scent of hibiscus and roses.

The rooftop held a garden.

Row after row of plants, a myriad of colours and varieties, bursting out of raised wooden boxes, filling the area of a tennis court. There was even a tiny greenhouse tucked next to an air vent.

Mun was carefully gaging her expression, seeming satisfied at the pleasure there.

"My youngest sister is a botanist," he explained gesturing at the explosion of plant life. "This is where she keeps her side projects."

"It is beautiful," breathed Sun. The clean scent of warm earth was filling her nose, reminding her of the gardens her mother had adored, and drowning out the stink of the city. She let her fingers run over the velvety softness of the nearest blossom, a peony of the most delicate shade of purple.

"It is." There was a warm undertone of pride in his voice as he looked out at the garden. "That's not my favourite part though."

"What is?" Sun was having trouble imagining anything more lovely than your own rooftop garden. It made her luxury apartment seem so bare in comparison.

Mun gestured behind him and Sun followed the direction of the motion. She let out an involuntary snort of laughter as she took in the view of the other side of the rooftop.

In complete contrast to the lovely serenity of the garden, he had set up and outdoor fighting ring, complete with mats and punching bags, protected under a large metal awning.

"How did you mange to afford all of this?" Sun set a covetous eye on a set of batons dangling over a metal railing.

"My father," Mun followed her to the edge of mats. "I come from a long glorious line of military officers. When he died he left me pretty much everything. Nothing for my mom and sisters of course." For the first time Mun sounded bitter.

Sun paused in her examination of the batons, and met his gaze. "So you bought a rooftop?"

Mun nodded, "And a few other things, helped with tuition for my sisters and their kids, a new car for my mom. Stuff like that."

"You didn't become an officer," observed Sun.

"No I did not."

"How many siblings to you have?"

"Five. I am the oldest. All sisters." Mun smiled, but his voice was bitter again, "Likely my father's biggest disappointment, other than the fact I didn't stay in the military of course."

Sun couldn't describe the feeling that these new pieces of information stirred in her. She settled on overwhelming fondness, and made this known by reaching over to gently squeeze Mun's forearm.

He smiled gratefully down at her, and they stood like that for a long, trembling moment, before he looked away and raised the bag still clutched in his left hand.

"Anyways, you said I could see you again for a drink or to fight, so I thought - why not both?"

Sun didn't even try to hide her smile this time. She rather liked how it made him light up in return.

"I am not sure I am dressed to fight." A jury made up of Kala, Lito, and Nomi had chosen Sun's outfit; as a result it was a bit impractical.

"No worries," Mun gestured to a small, black duffel sitting by a set of dumbbells, your teacher left that with me, after you went on the run again. He seemed to think you might seek me out. There should be exercise clothing in it if you want – of course we don't have to -" He bit off the end of his sentence at the eager look on Sun's face. "Feel free to change downstairs."

Sun seized the bag without hesitation.

They went five rounds. She won every time. Mun's smile never left his face.

 

*** *** ***

Somehow they spent the whole afternoon together. Sun had not anticipated this turn of events. But time had passed inexplicably fast, and she found herself floating along with it, reclining an a pile of cushions Mun had dug out of a plastic chest on the garden side, letting the fading golden rays of sun dry the sweat from her skin. The remnants of the picnic he had packed into the cooler bag sat beside him.

At some point, her head had drifted over to rest on his shoulder.

It fit there perfectly. She did not consider the possible implications of this.

A lazy, intermittent quiet fell between them, occasionally broken by a question or comment but for the most part they were content in listening to the ebb and flow of traffic below them, so far away it could have been coming from another planet.

Above them, all Sun could see was clear blue skies. Something of his lightness had filled her, her thoughts becoming uninhibited and random.

Perhaps that is why the question that had been bouncing around the back of her head, as silly as it was, now passed easily through her lips.

"Why did you kiss me in the graveyard?"

To his credit, Mun didn't immediately spout a line or crack a joke. He seemed to consider her question carefully, watching an airplane cut a path through the sky above, before responding.

"You say more in two hits than some people manage to in a novel." His eyes met hers, warm and dark in the afternoon light, "That is a no small thing."

Sun rolled over onto her side, the one already pressed against him, so as to keep a closer eye on his expression, "So you think I was telling you to kiss me?"

"No! No," Mun shifted a little, but Sun noticed that he kept the side she was leaning against very still, as if he were afraid of scaring her off. She would have to do something about that in a moment.

"What then was I saying?"

"That you were alone, and in pain, but that you were still completely ready to kick my ass. I think –" and his eyes crinkled as he looked down at her, "- I think that a better man than me would find that impossible to resist."

Sun thought that over.

"Good answer," she replied and grabbed a fistful of his hair, guiding his head down hers.

His kisses were different this time, less sweaty for one, but also less intense, slow and exploratory this time. As if he were learning what she liked. Sun had never really kissed like this, been touched in a way that was so free of intent, so unhurried.

The effect was hypnotic.

Which was probably they both jumped about a foot when his phone rang, smacking their heads together. Mun let out a quickly muffled stream of swear words while Sun involuntarily snorted in laughter.

He sighed as he dug around in his pocket, "Sorry, I have to take this, it could be work."

Sun nodded, and watched as he jumped to his feet walking over to lean against the railing at the edge of the roof. His face took on a funny expression, Sun wasn't sure what to make of it, but she felt a jolt of concern run through her.

Mun hung up the phone and seemed to be staring down at the street below in abject terror. Sun quickly joined him at the railing.

"What? What is it?"

Mun gaped like a fish for a moment and then gestured to the street below them. Sun scanned it but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. A large black van had pulled up in front of the building and a several woman, an older one with while hair and younger ones, along with a veritable army of children were getting out.

"My mother," choked Mun. Sun was amused to see him purpling in embarrassment, he pointed to the congregation below. "She is here."

 

*** *** ***

This wasn't Kala's first time when it came to co-habitation. In fact, she was almost grateful for her time with Rajan. Living with Wolfgang was still an adjustment, but she at least knew what to expect.

Somewhat hilariously, or tragically (depending on the day), Wolfgang was on the complete other end of the spectrum. He was not one to talk about past relationships, but she knew enough from Felix that he had only had a handful of long-term relationships and they had all ended messily.

More than once she had needed to talk him down from what Nomi called "The Chronic Comitmentitis of the Male Gender".

It was strange the things that stuck out, like the morning he had woken up and used her toothbrush (something Rajan had been prone to doing as well for some reason) without noticing. He hadn't exactly panicked but sometime after, sitting at the island, a cup of coffee for him a cup of chai for her, he had started slowly shaking his head.

"What?" asked Kala warily, looking up from the thick pile of BPO research documents Riley had sent her. She hadn't found a job in Paris yet, but in the meantime she was helping Riley and Mr. Hoy in the restructuring of BPO. It was proving a slow and grisly job.

"This can't be real," he murmured, staring into the depths of his coffee.

Wolfgang in the morning was glorious thing to behold, all floppy limbs and unresisting sweetness. Mostly. Today would seem to be the exception.

Kala gently reached over, and rubbed her fingers over that spot on the back of his neck he liked. "It is real," she reminded him softly.

"I know," he sighed, "I just feel like I am living someone else's life, like I am in some sort of bubble that could pop at any minute."

There wasn't really anything to say to that, Kala knew, because she sometimes felt the same way. So she merely kissed the top of his head and went back to her readings. Wolfgang pulled himself together and started getting ready for work - running a gentle hand down her back as he left.

About three hours and countless cups of tea later Kala came across something in her readings that brought her to a dead stop.

 

*** *** **

Why is everything in Paris so fucking expensive? Wolfgang grumbled to himself dragging himself past yet another tourist packed café – the kind you probably had to pay extra to just sit down at.

The throng of people sporting oversized cameras and jabbering loudly in English thinned as he wound his way back to their apartment but not by much. Burying his hands in his pockets Wolfgang walked with his head down, lost in his own thoughts.

While Wolfgang (and Wolfgang's teachers) had always believed himself to be a fundamentally lazy person, he had only to remain jobless in Paris for about two weeks before he started to go a little insane. Kala hadn't commented on it, but they both knew.

So, one thing had led to another and he had found himself nose to nose with a help wanted sign outside a shop specializing in custom safes and locks.

There had been the small matter of him not speaking of French of course, but some things had a way of transcending language. Like the expression on the proprietor's face when Wolfgang walked in and cracked one of the safes mounted on the wall in less than 10 minutes.

The shop was not far from the apartment, but unfortunately took him past the Eiffel Tower and the busiest part of Paris on his way to and from work. This meant shouldering past crowds at least twice a day, something that Wolfgang was uncomfortable with, still afflicted with residual paranoia from when BPO was still on the prowl.

And today was the worst it had ever been, nearly August, and it seemed like the entire continent of North America and a good chunk of Asia had descended on the city. Wolfgang let out a grunt as someone ran into him, a diminutive woman, middle-aged, East Asian, and sporting a loose floral dress and a floppy sunhat met his eyes with a curious expression.

Wolfgang now knew the feeling of connecting to another sensate and tried not to visibly reel at the sudden influx of information. The woman was already moving on before he had even realized what happened. But words echoed in his ears trailed behind her like a ribbon caught in the wind.

"Thank you, brother."

This had happened more than once in the time he had been in Paris, sensates from all around the world bumping into him, offering words of gratitude and respect.

He knew the rest of his cluster had been experiencing the same thing, but they seemed to be taking it more in stride. For him, however, each time was equally disconcerting. A Russian woman, paying for his coffee while he waited, A Nigerian girl, barely into adolescence, on a school trip watching him with a sort of solemn awe as he walked past.

Awe. It was disturbing. He disliked the implication. Like he had played some part in BPO's demise, rather than the truth: the little he had done - it had no root in nobility. He just wanted to protect Kala, for himself. For his own selfish reasons.

He didn't want to be thanked like he was some sort of damn hero.

He was in such a state of distraction that he didn't notice the vortex of emotions coming from the apartment until he was already inside.

Kala was sitting on the couch, her shouldered hunched forward protectively, like she was in pain. Wolfgang froze for a moment, horrible memories flooding his mind, Kala fading away, while he stood there helpless. But then she turned to face him, and while her face was streaked with tears, she smiled brightly.

Wolfgang found himself kneeling at her feet before he could even consciously process himself doing so. He just needed to touch her to be sure.

"What is it?" he asked, carefully brushing away the hair that was stuck to her face. Is it Rajan?

Kala just gave him another watery smile, pulled his face up to hers for a very firm and slightly wet kiss and then shoved a handful of papers in his face. Wolfgang squinted at them fruitlessly before giving up. They seemed to be some kind of research related... thing. He grimaced.

"Kala - darling - look, I actually failed every science class I ever took."

This seemed to draw her out of whatever teary fit of emotion she was experiencing.

"Really? Every single one?" She actually looked kind of impressed.

"I was in detention. A lot."

Not that he would admit it, but he had put a good deal of thought into the vast disparity in terms of their education, especially now that the greatest threat to their relationship wasn't a shady government organization, but, well each other.

Kala seemed to sense his discomfort and gave him a soft kiss, "Well, we each have our talents."

Wolfgang snorted, "Not a deal breaker then?"

Kala shook her head and wiped away a few tears, "The part where you actually stole things for a living wasn't so..."

"Right," Wolfgang passed back the papers, "So, want to tell me what this is about?"

Kala started getting misty eyed again. "It's – uh - a paper – by our mother." She smiled, "Not even a paper properly, more like a theory, where she postulated ways in which the blockers could be overcome."

Wolfgang's eyes flashed up to meet hers, his interest suddenly piqued.

"I remember," she said softly in response to the questioning look in his eyes, "When I thought I was dying, you were there. I wanted to keep you with me."

Her hand gently brushed through his hair, "I thought it was a dream, but then the monk said something that got me thinking."

Wolfgang caught her hand and pressed it into his cheek. He didn't like to think of that day. But something had happened. The impossible.

"It's all here," Kala waved her hands at the papers, "Angelica theorized that resistance could occur if – if – an emotion was strong enough, if the focus was singular enough. They were using it to see if they could run the Traceworks on sensates that were on blockers, but it was never enough, they would die from the pain before they would reach out."

"What happened then?"

Kala's eyes brimmed with fresh tears, "You love me."

"Of course I do," That is what had gotten them into this whole mess in the first place wasn't it?

"No," she sniffled then hunted around for a tissue. There wasn't any. Wolfgang offered her his sleeve.

"Angelica theorized that they would have to think of only one thing, and feel it absolutely, almost like a entering a meditative state or a prayer. She thought a religious connection could cause this. But for someone untrained to manage to – someone that doesn't believe in anything -"

"I couldn't think of anything else," admitted Wolfgang softly, "I just wanted to be beside you. It wasn't about belief; I just wanted you. "

It was embarrassing really, how hopelessly he had fallen. Terrifying. There could be no reconstruction if this thing failed; it would be the end of everything for him. There was a reason he had shied away at first; these were high stakes to play around with.

And yet she was still here. Here, in front of him, leaning over him, her face glowing with affection. Offering forgiveness for all of his sins without a hint of hesitation.

There really wasn't much to say after that, as she wound her fingers through his hair and kissed him again, slower this time, lingering and hungry.

Being in person, the connection flowing through them, it was like nothing he could have ever imagined. It was like every inch of his skin was prickling with sensation, as if he could feel the very breath from her lungs even as he laid her down on their bed to kneel between her legs.

She was all consuming, rushing into his thoughts, and washing everything away until he was raw and bare, sprawled on his back now, while she wrapped around him.

And then even that was not enough; desire aching, scratching, tearing at the back of his throat. He wanted to bite her - to press her to him until they were well and truly one person. It was always a struggle to resist that urge, to gentle his hands as they ran through her hair, not tug down, to run his fingers down her throat.

He didn't want to think about the things that his hands were capable of; he didn't want to think about what might happen if he let himself go like that.

"You won't break me," murmured Kala, leaning down as if in answer his thoughts.

"You might break me," he laughed breathlessly, but still kept his touch light. Kala's face was inscrutable in the dark.

Chapter Text

"I am so sorry."

"It's fine."

"No really." Mun fixed her with a pleading gaze, "I promise this wasn't meant to be an ambush."

"Its fine." Sun tried to sound calmer than she felt. She had swiftly changed back into her outfit from earlier, adding a cardigan from the duffel. They were currently sitting on his couch, at least a foot of distance between them, while Mun apologized profusely.

They had already ruled out the fire escape.

"This is Yu-Na's doing – my oldest sister – " he explained, " - she always did have the worst sense of humor. Loved getting me in trouble."

"How did they know?" Sun tried for absolute calmness in her voice. She was suddenly aware of her disheveled hair – sweaty from fighting.

Mun sat even more rigidly than before, as if about to undergo military inspection. Sun found this oddly hilarious, underneath the impending dread of course.

"You told them about me didn't you?"

"They are very interested in my work," he replied stiffly, "And –" his eyes flickered over to hers then away, "- you make quite the impression."

There was a knock on the door. Mun appeared to whisper a silent prayer, before very cautiously walking over to open the door.

His apartment must have excellent soundproofing, was Sun's somewhat dazed observation, as they were almost immediately blasted with a solid wall of sound.

Children (his sister's?) wormed their way in clinging to Mun's legs, jabbering rapidly, while two beautiful women around Sun's age followed at a more sedate pace, doling out admonishments, and ruffling Mun's hair affectionately as they passed.

"- Have to get that elevator fixed - Oh my, I didn't know you had a guest." An older woman's voice rose above the din, laden with false surprise.

Mun muttered something unintelligible.

"You really must speak up, you know my hearing isn't what it used to be. "

Sun jerked to her feet as Mun's mother entered the apartment, acutely thankful that Kala had insisted on a long skirt.

A few toddlers barreled past her, chased by their older siblings, on the way to the roof, apparently uninterested in the stranger in the house.

Sun chanced a glance up from her feet: Mun's sisters were reclining against the counter, wearing identical looks of amusement, the man himself was still standing by the door looking concussed.

His mother was somewhere in the middle, impeccably dressed, and still quite statuesque despite the slight hunch to her shoulders.

Sun wasn't quite sure how to read the expression on her face. The apartment suddenly went deathly silent. All eyes fell to his mother, Sun felt like she was back in court. The woman tilted her head to the side speculatively.

"But she is beautiful!" She finally exclaimed, "You didn't tell me that." She shot her son a reproving look.

Sun's sense of etiquette suddenly rushed back in one jumbled mess.

"It is an honour to meet you mother," she murmured demurely, bowing deeply.

She wasn't quite sure what came afterwards. It had been a very, very long time. Mostly she just gravitated towards casual sex. Oh, she should not be thinking about that right now.

There was another long speculative silence, in which Sun stared at down at her shoes. It was silly to be anxious, after all this was just an awkward mistake.

When Sun hazarded another glance up, she saw his mother was beaming. Behind her Mun's sisters seemed to be trading self-satisfied looks.

As it turned out, she didn't have to think of anything to say.

She wouldn't get a word in edgewise for at least then next hour, as the three woman descended on her all at once, towing her up to the garden to tell her about the flowers, the children and just about everything else they thought Mun might have left out.

At some point, just as evening was starting to fall she found herself back in the apartment, stuffed into the corner of the couch, one of Mun's nieces sleeping on her lap. The girl had taken an inexplicable liking to her: firmly attaching herself to Sun's leg until she had fallen asleep. The child sort of reminded Sun of Jinmee, which was a good thing, she decided.

Mun's sister – Sun had already forgotten her name – squeezed in beside her. She had a cup of tea in her hands, which she passed to Sun.

The little bachelor's apartment was awash in domesticity of the kind Sun had never seen outside of a movie screen. The children had quieted and Mun was on his knees in the living space, playing some sort of game with them on a tablet, his mother and his sister talked quietly by the window.

Sun accepted it with a smile, careful not to jostle the child.

"I watched your trial," Mun's sister ran a gentle hand over her sleeping daughter's hair, "I am sorry for what your brother did to you, I am glad you are free now."

"Thank you," said Sun softly.

"He speaks very highly of you," She inclined her head in Mun's direction, where one of the children was attempting to climb onto his shoulders. "And often."

Sun didn't know what to say. Mun's sister didn't seem to mind; it must be a hereditary thing.

"I know we only just met," a slightly mischievous smile crossed her face, although much more subtle than the one her brother often wore, "And it is early days for you two."

Sun stifled a snort of amusement that did not go unnoticed by the other woman.

"Very early days," she amended, her smile widening. "But, I hope that you will someday consider us family." Her voice was very sincere and Sun had to swallow the lump in her throat before she could speak. She cast her gaze around the little apartment again, settling on Mun, who was wincing comically as his niece tugged on his nose.

"I'd like that," she replied at last, "I'd like that a lot."

 

*** *** ***

Kala and Riley startled out of their seats when his phone rang - at the same time – despite being geographically in different countries. Which was pretty fucking funny to watch.

Wolfgang shot the two of them a look before scooping up his phone and answering it. He carried it to the other room so the two of them could continue talking. He had been fairly useless in the reconstruction of BPO, but Kala and Riley had more than made up for that, Kala covering the research end and Riley, with Sun's assistance dealing with the business part. Daily visits from his cluster-mate had become a regular thing.

"Hello?" he said as soon as the phone picked up.

"Wolfie," Felix's voice was very casual. Wolfgang was instantly suspicious, "How is the domestic bliss? Did you like the apron I sent?"

"Felix..."

His friend sighed, "You are no fun at all. Ok, fine – we have a Code Lila."

Wolfgang's jaw clenched, "Do you need me to come back?"

"Easy there Terminator 2, she is in police custody."

Well that was a surprise. He had rather thought she was smarter than that.

"Yeah, I know," continued Felix, "But I think the going has been tough for her since BPO fell, that and some of her cluster wants to make an alliance, or so Good Cop Gorski tells me."

"I didn't know you two were in contact," replied Wolfgang absently, Lila had been a nagging afterthought of his for weeks, the one piece of the puzzle that had been missing.

"Yeah we meet on Sunday's to have a tea party," Felix snorted, "He calls every now and then, seeing as you abandoned Berlin for your lady love."

"Ah," Wolfgang aimed for an apologetic tone. "So that's the end of it then."

"Something like that," He could almost see Felix running one hand through his hair in agitation.

"But?" prodded Wolfgang.

"Fuchs has been stirring up all kinds of shit over it. It's looking like Episode Three: Return of the Gang Wars," An awkward silence on the other end, "You wouldn't mind if I joined you in exile would you?"

Wolfgang grinned.

 

*** *** ***

Wolfgang had gotten her addicted to singing competitions. She had really thought that it would be something else – crime, smoking, radical fits of recklessness. But no it was these damn European singing competitions.

After Felix had called, and she and Riley had gotten way too enthusiastic in hunting for an apartment for him, Wolfgang had pulled her down to sit with him on the couch, lying with his head in her lap.

"It's over," he had said quietly, like man that couldn't quite believe what he was saying. "It's really over, and no one else got hurt."

Kala just ran her fingers through his hair and smiled.

But even as he fell into a contented doze, she couldn't help feeling like something was still missing. Not an external thing but an internal thing.

They had avoided the topic, the fact, of their torture like the plague, even though they both still bore marks physical and emotional of that time. Wolfgang in fact seemed to be pretending none of it happened. Kind of like everything else in his life he didn't feel like talking about.

But it had been weeks, and she wasn't like Wolfgang.

Rather abruptly she muted the TV.

"I-" Kala swallowed nervously and licked her lips.

"I did some things. Earlier," she clarified, when Wolfgang looked up at her confused. "When BPO had you, and we needed information. I –I –" she suddenly couldn't meet his eye, nerveless her hands fell out of his hair, "I hurt him. Whispers. Like how I hurt Lila but worse."

Wolfgang sat up slowly, hesitating a moment and then taking her limp hands into his, turning her slightly so that they faced each other on the couch. "Ok."

Kala felt her voice waver, and her eyes fill with stupid tears, "I know he was a monster, and that he deserved it. That they both did, and that the damage I caused it wasn't meant to be permanent –"

"- All damage is permanent," said Wolfgang softly, and now it was he that would not meet her eyes, "Anyone that says differently is lying to themselves."

"It is isn't it?" whispered Kala, and in that moment she felt that she truly understood him, "and it works both ways doesn't it?"

Wolfgang nodded mutely, still keeping his eyes on their hands, hovering over his lap. Kala wondered if this was the closest she would ever come to a confession from him.

A confession to all the things she already knew, things she now understood on a personal level: the nightmares, the paranoia, the constant feeling that she could no longer blend into a crowd, the aching isolation that caused.

Violence did not only leave marks on the violated, but also the arbitrator. That shouldn't be such a surprise to her, it was as old as the concept of sin, of karma, but still it struck her anew as she watched the light catch Wolfgang's lowered eyelashes. The one thing he hoped she would not know about his world and now she did.

"I think," She murmured, "I understand."

Wolfgang let his hands fall away from hers; he finally looked up at her.

"I never wanted this for you," He replied at last, and each word was heavy like a rock, heaved into a still pool.

They didn't say much more after that, Kala un-muted the TV and Wolfgang returned his head to her lap. Comfortable silence returned after sometime, albeit with an undercurrent of sadness.

Kala wasn't going to push. They had time now; time enough for her to wait until he was ready. Time to wait until she was ready. The walls would fall when they would.

That night however, Kala woke to the slightest quivering beside her and knew that her confession had changed something.

Wolfgang never moved in his sleep.

Sometimes, if they had had a lot of sex and he was loose and relaxed, or if he had been drinking he would sprawl out, or pull her tightly against him until they were both overheated and sweaty. But mostly he slept tensely, lightly, curled defensively beside her. No matter how bad the nightmares were he would never move or cry out.

She thought for a moment that perhaps she should pretend to be sleeping.

But then he made a noise, just one: a soft whimper. His back was facing her and Kala reached for him before she was even consciously being aware of doing so.

She felt him wake as soon as she did, freezing in place. For a moment, she thought he might push her away, but then in one jerky convulsive movement he had rolled over to face her burying his head into the crook of her neck.

The darkness, cut only by the hazy light filtering past the slat curtains, reminded her of being underwater. Indeed, there was a certain safety in these partially formed and trance like hours, everything felt far, far away.

"What did you dream of?" she whispered, running her fingers through his cropped hair.

He didn't answer for a long time. So long that Kala had begun to nudge at the borders of sleep, when his voice broke the stillness, ragged as a piece of cut glass.

"My mother," he confessed, "I miss her."

And then all at once he was sobbing; terrible, great, convulsive sobs that shook his whole body. She could feel them tearing at their throat on the way out. The well of agony that they came from was dizzying in its depth, such that for a moment Kala shied from such bottomless pain, before she remembered – it's just Wolfgang, it's ok – and she tightened her grip on his shoulders feeling her eyes flood as well.

It went on for a long time, long after her shoulder had become a sticky saturated mess of snot and tears, her hair and the pillows and the sheets too. Long after his voice had gotten raw, and wavered and vanished, and their head hurt and throbbed with each gasping breath.

Even after all that, he still trembled in her arms, curled around her, like a scared child, and Kala ached with him, until uncounted moments later finally he was spent.

There was embarrassment on his face when he pulled away from her, certainly an expression she had never seen on him before, but also a measure of relief.

She watched him rise unsteadily and make his way to the bathroom, hearing the tap run, only to watch him return a minute later with a damp facecloth. He set to carefully wiping her skin clean, looking rueful when he found her hair knotted and clumped together.

"Sorry," he said at last. Another first.

Kala wasn't sure what to say in response: its ok? Just didn't seem to cut it. That she didn't mind at all? That it was an honour; as odd as that sounded.

She settled for taking the cloth from him and gently running it underneath his swollen eyes, before indicating with a little jerk of her head that he should lie down again, this time on her dry side.

He did so after a moment's hesitation, very gently resting his head on her shoulder. She heard him sniff softly, and felt her heart swell to enormous proportions. There were a large number of very sappy things she wanted to say at that moment, but she knew he wasn't ready to hear them yet. She settled for the most important, tangling their legs together, and guiding them back to the realms of sleep.

"I love you."

*** *** ***

Kala woke to the delicious scent of butter frying in a pan, and then the realization that Wolfgang was not beside her. The tiny swell of worry that bubbled in her at that but it was almost immediately quelled by the sound of a pot clanging and Wolfgang whistling tunelessly to whatever was playing on the TV.

Stretching out languorously, Kala followed her nose to the kitchen. The patio door was open and sunlight was steaming in. Wolfgang was already showered and dressed, puttering away behind the island, sporting a navy blue flannel, rolled at the sleeves, and a checkered dishtowel slung over one shoulder.

The effect was dazzling.

"And what is this?" asked Kala, unable to keep a smile from her face as he jumped a little and turned at the sound of her voice.

"Blini," He replied, smiling back, and sliding indicating the place setting on the other side of the island, "It is like a pancake."

"I see," said Kala. There were sunflowers sitting in a new vase next to a little bowl of freshly whipped cream. She felt her eyebrows rise slightly.

Wolfgang resumed whistling, as he slid what did appear to be a very thin pancake onto her plate. "No eggs," he assured her, "Was a bit of a challenge, but I think they turned out alright. I like them with strawberry jam and whipped cream, like this –" and he leaned over her spooning on the jam and then folding it into quarters.

He met her increasingly astonished gaze with a mischievous smirk, "Go on. Tell me what you think."

Kala took a bite and felt her eyebrows rise even higher. "Ok," she saw his smirk widen into a grin, "I'm impressed."

He leaned forward and gave her a strawberry flavored kiss.

"Um," Kala almost didn't want to ask, "What's the occasion?"

Wolfgang pulled away from her after placing one more kiss on the tip of her nose. "My mother used to make them for me," he replied turning away to pour more batter into the pan. Kala carefully tamped down her surprise, but knew he felt it anyways.

"I am trying," he said softly, not quite facing her.

Kala nodded around another bite of breakfast. She hadn't really expected her admission yesterday to bring about this. But humans did work in strange ways, and if this was his way of opening up about a lifetime of trauma, she wasn't about to complain.

Wolfgang seemed relieved that she wasn't going to inquire further or bring up last night, and continued with his story, with only a moment's hesitation.

"On Sundays before church, she would get up early. I think it was bribery to get me to sit still and quiet during the sermons. " He gave Kala another dimpled grin, this time all hints of uncertainty wiped away, "I was not very well behaved."

"I am shocked," Kala took the opportunity shovel more breakfast into her mouth. "You do realize this sets a precedent right?"

"Oh?"

"Mmhmm," Kala watched as he executed a very graceful pancake flip. An entirely different sort of hunger was growing in her. "I might start expecting this kind of treatment every morning."

Wolfgang chuckled and then noticed her empty plate, "Another?" He asked hovering the pan over the counter.

"In a minute," replied Kala, already sliding out of her seat and rounding the island, "Have you eaten?"

"Yes, earlier. What are you –" It was Wolfgang's turn to look surprised as she reached around him to turn off the stove.

Kala didn't let him finish, grasping him firmly by the front of his shirt and reaching up to pull his open mouth to hers. The connection sparked and crackled between them. In case her intention wasn't clear enough she slipped her tongue behind his teeth, before pulling back slightly to bite down very gently on his lower lip.

"Oh." He said, eyes darkening with lust.

"Quite," replied Kala and dragged him by his belt loops back to their bedroom.