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Around Sanity's Corner

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His mind was filled with a constant litany of curses as he drove, eyes trying to stay fixed on the winding road and the speedometer at once. His hands shook, and more than once he had pulled over to retch on the side of the road. Dry clothes and the heat turned to max did nothing to stop him from shivering constantly. Every joint in his body ached and he felt as if he had been beaten from head to toe. Yet still he drove, trying to fight his urge to speed, wanting nothing else but to put miles behind him.

Shit, shit, fuck, damn it, mother fucker! Why did he - and with that his brain froze, and his stomach heaved violently – he barely managed to get the window down before he dry heaved again. There was nothing in his stomach to bring up but acid. Every time his mind turned back, started to try to think his way through what had happened he felt nauseas and overcome with panic.

He had kicked Black in the face the minute the other agent had untied his legs. It was reflex, more than anything; his mind had been too confused to think the action through. His brain was undone, still half lost in flashback, and the only thoughts he had managed were of escape. Yet as he had run out of Black's apartment, taking the steps three at a time, he realized he had to do something, or he would have the entire Black Nation intelligence service on his back as soon as Black awoke.

A crazed plan had half formed in his mind, and he had followed it through without thinking it through. He had packed a duffle, changed into dry clothes, then grabbed his weapons and car keys before bolting down the back stairs of his apartment building. He had driven, slowly, to Black's building, then returned to the apartment. Black had still been unconscious where White had left him, a huge goose egg of a bruise swelling on the bottom of his jaw. As if in a dream, he first carried Black down stairs, then placed him in the trunk of his car, before carefully binding the enemy spy hand and foot. He slammed the trunk as if in a dream, then returned to Black's apartment.

He cleaned every surface of the bathroom, gathered up the ruins of his clothes, found his knives and gun and then began to leave. His instincts made him stop and retrieve the duffle and the DVD and gun as well, which he threw into the back seat of his car along with the other items. A final trip up the stairs and into the apartment completed his task. He soaked the electrical outlet in the bathroom with rubbing alcohol, then lit one of Black's cigarettes and set it burning near the pool of fluid. Twenty minutes, and the apartment would be in flames.

His next steps had been even easier. As he drove out from town, he thumbed open the sat-phone he used to contact command, and dialed a number. He spoke for a few minutes with his handler, spinning a web of lies a mile thick. He requested use of a safe house nearly two hundred miles from where he was, then requested a free and clear – no tracking in the house. Command gave it to him, without question. He thanked them, unnecessarily, then finally spoke the words that he knew might be his last to command. "Agent request, going dark." He was one of maybe ten agents who could make that request. No communication, no tracking, no check-in, no tails or shadows: going dark meant being on your own. The request was acknowledged, and he clicked off the phone, then threw it out of the window.

He was fifty miles away when the panic overwhelmed his brain and he started vomiting.


The pain welled up through Black's skull before consciousness did. He was half awake, his mind swimming through shadows, memory, and most of all, pain. His jaw ached, a dull throb that ran through all his teeth and face punctuated with every beat of his heart. Dimly, beyond that pain, he was aware of the rest of his body, a dull sea of aches and pains, new and old, feeling cramped and bent like a rag doll stuffed into a coffee tin.

But instinct was as strong in him as it was in any field agent that had lasted as long as he had, and he kept every muscle in his body relaxed, his breathing even, his eyes closed. Consciousness rolled over him in waves, arising and retreating fleetingly. Memory surged, in flashes of shadow and the haze of concussive amnesia. White's eyes, so clear, looking at him with the blank terror of a civilian, dominated his mind's eye. A sea of other thoughts swelled in him, all surrounded by that throbbing pain in his head. And noise.

The noise was a loud roar, a thrumming vibration that shook his bones, and it sliced through everything but the pain. It and the pain sang in his head, until at last he caught the melody. Consciousness ripped through his mind along with self awareness. The sound. He knew that sound. He was in the trunk of a car, a moving car. He was bound hand and foot, with sloppy loose knots that felt as if they had been tied by a civilian hand. He still had his sleeve knife, though couldn't reach it, and could feel the comforting presence of a few other hidden weapons on his person. He was missing his boots, but that had never stopped him. Whomever had captured him had been very sloppy.

The stab of memory hit him hard enough that it physically hurt. White had captured him. When he had untied White's legs, White had knocked him unconscious. Impossible, he thought to himself through the haze of the pain in his head. White knows better, White is better. He's handed me over to some clumsy handler. I'll be out of these ropes in a few minutes and out of the car the next time it stops. Then I'll – his mind froze on that thought, and all he could remember was White, curled in a shivering mass on his bathroom floor, eyes filled with terror, raw and unfettered.

The car made a turn, and he felt his weight shift in the enclosed darkness of the trunk, rough interior fibers under him. He swallowed hard, aware of the dryness of his mouth, even though the air was relatively humid and cool. White's eyes looked back at him out of his memory, unseeing and fear glazed. That feeling welled inside Black, the one he knew to be something he shouldn't feel, the one which had gotten him in this position in the first place, and all he could do was sigh. White did have him. White, reduced to making stupid mistakes even a rookie wouldn't make, driving to who knew where, with Black in the trunk of his car.

Black winced, and felt guilt. I did this, he thought. I did this with my own stupidity and bumbling. I could run, but to what point? To leave White to whatever I've set lose in his head? Black respected White too much - no, that wasn't the word and he knew it – to run like his instincts were howling for him to.

He flexed his wrists a bit, stretching the knots enough that he could probably have simply slipped out of them, letting the blood flow back into his hands and find a comfortable position. Where ever you are going, he thought, when you open this trunk I'll be laying here. And then we can talk.