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Violent Nights Under A Turquoise Sky

Chapter Text

It was meant to be a slow morning, lying in bed, before crawling out and staggering to the kitchen where he made his instant coffee. He drank it, it was never as good, but it was enough. Later, he’d sit in his living room, the blinds blocking the sun.

Evan stared at his phone, he turned it on and there was no messages. He placed it on the glass coffee table, grabbed his clothes from his room and took a quick shower. When he was finished, he picked up his phone, put his shoes on, and walked out with his keys in his hand.

He was early. He worked for a distribution company, moving around supplies through several warehouses. He’s been working there for three years, and every day since he dreaded going. It was work, not something he could always complain about, but he did anyway.

The hot air was sticky against his skin once he walked outside toward his blue car. There were a few others from the residence in the apartment building. He sat inside, started the car and drove away down the lone street.

There was a static noise in his ears to this normalcy he played everyday. His hands sometimes shook, or sometimes they stayed firmly closed. His heart was calm, and his patience stayed focused. There was a diluted feeling that made him grind his teeth together, jaw tense, but there was nothing that could warrant a reaction like this.

Only dreams that fixated him during the late nights when he’d wake up with sweat on skin, panting low, as if he were running down streets for his life. The panic made him drink water until it dripped from his chin, and he’d sit on the kitchen floor, shaking and muttering to himself about how much dreams could sink into his mind, reminding him of all he left behind.

He exchanged his life, and it was a decision that caused him to stay where he was. Not to make a move, or say a word, and sometimes thinking made him feel guilty.

He reminded himself that it was a lie, a delusion causing him to wish of another life. He went on and on, living in this box with everyone else.

It’s all he can do.

He arrived at the warehouse, parked his car and stepped out onto the asphalt. He walked toward the front desk, holding his security card and was let in. More workers wandered by, the stink of food lingered in the air, and it was never sweet, and never too close to rot.

Evan went to work for the rest of the day. Stacking boxes and crates, pushing around pallets, and organizing the supplies. He cleaned up the mess whenever he saw it, or even his own. And it was the noise that got him, the same drumming in his heart that caused everything else to fade.

He feigned the days, smiled when he had too even how empty he felt, that sometimes when he needs too, he’ll curl his fingers and count until he doesn’t need too anymore.

By the time eight hours went by and his stomach hurts from not eating. He had a bit of food, but he couldn’t focus on it. It was like he was on autopilot, unsure of what he was doing and why.

Evan walked to his car, craving something cold to cool down his body from the heat. The inside of his car didn’t help and he rolled down the windows. He wanted to go back to sleep, to spend the rest of his day in bed where he didn’t have to think of the outside world.

For once, he went to the coffee shop and bought himself a lemonade. He sat down outside on a lone round glass table and enjoyed the shade. He took his phone out, turned it on, and there was no messages. He placed it on the table, and when he looked up, his mouth parted from the straw.

He stood in front of him. Short black hair and brown eyes, skin tanned by the burning sun, a familiar smile on his lips. He looked as he last saw him, grey shirt, blue sweater, and faded black jeans. It’s like he didn’t bother to change and evolve his clothes, but Evan didn’t expect to care about that.

Evan got up, grabbed his phone, and walked away.

“Vanoss,” he called.

He stopped, heart making his veins burn in his skin. “Don’t. Call. Me. That.” He narrowed his eyes at him, “my name is Evan.”

There was a defeated yet stubborn look plastered on his face, sweat sliding from his temple. “Evan, don’t walk away.”

He did. He continued down the sidewalk, passing people as he went, tasting the lemonade on his tongue that cooled his hesitation.

“Evan, don’t ignore me!”

After all these years.

I miss him.

I miss him.

I miss him.

Evan closed that part off and continued walking. He had to look away, ignore what he had before, stop feeling like he had something against his skin, in his hand as he pulled down and the heat of metal stayed with him. He had to lose the edge from when he was close to death, the smile on his lips when he laughed at the fall.

He knew what he was looking at when it was displayed in front of him. The names, the touch, the weight, things normal people wouldn’t know unless they were trained too.

He knew it by experience.

It devoured him, the warm sticky blood on his hands, staining his clothes when he tried wiping it off, the wounds that split opened and later stitched closed.

There was also the fear that left the air dry, and the breath stuck in his throat. His heart ached, and it was too much, he couldn’t handle it anymore, even how much he tried to everyday.

When would he forget instead of being dragged back to the moment where he couldn’t move, or even speak, where he finally expressed he had enough. He said his goodbyes and without even a backwards glance, he left.

He’s yanked back by the arm, and he doesn’t hesitate to rip his hand off of him, glaring yet there’s a tightening feeling that makes him dizzy.

“You can’t ignore me.”

Evan blinks and stares at the cement. “Leave me alone.”

He learned to hide within to keep his vulnerabilities from revealing themselves. Thoughts as distant as his words, there’s no trouble, no smiles that could lure in others, nothing that made others want him.

And yet…

“Evan,” his voice is soft, pleading, “I wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t an emergency.”

“I’m not a part of that anymore,” Evan says, still avoiding his face, hoping it wasn’t marred in his memory when he goes home later.

“I know. Something happened and we think—”

Evan shakes his head. “Your problem, not mine.”

“They’re your friends!” Incredulous and potent, once his teeth used to snap out at others, and lips widen when he laughs, he sometimes says the stupidest things, but he’s also dangerous. Some consider him the wild card.

Evan used to call him his best friend.

“Don’t drag me back,” Evan whispers, the warm wind kissing his cheek, and there’s solemnity that aches in his chest but he won’t let it coax out his hopes.

“Our friends are in trouble, and we need your help.”

“It’s been three years,” Evan says, shaking his head, “you don’t need me.”

Three years trying not to dream of gunshots in his ears that jolted him awake, or his body shaking so badly until he’s crumpled on the floor, breathing heavily, wishing for someone to help him through the fear and memory that plagues him. It took time, but even that began to dwindle, and he was able to tame his dreams, but he would never rid himself of his numbness.

“A week ago some of our operatives went missing. We haven’t heard a thing and we—”

“Leave me out of it, like I said it’s your problem.”

“You’re not listening to me, Evan, we looked into it, and guess what.” He steps closer and Evan moves back, “Five operatives went looking for the others, they didn’t come back. There’s five of us left.”

“I don’t see how this is my problem? I left so I don’t have to deal with shit like that, so how about you leave me alone.”

A short sarcastic laugh left his lips. “Are you serious? We left you alone for three years and all we’re asking is your help to find our friends.”

“Deal with it yourself.” Evan walked away from him, sipping his lemonade.

He once had a dream the ocean drowned him. He didn’t save himself, he didn’t swim, he sank into its depth, and with each second, the air was slipping from his lungs, and the darkness enveloped him.

Loneliness doesn’t know the sun, it’s coldness is a delusion that sometimes made one think it was warmth.

He lived like that, surrounded by its warmth, embraced and coddled until he could no longer feel anything.

Right now, there was an ache, tightening in his chest and all he wanted to do was get away, return home where he could lie with the loneliness, and forget his regret that tasted like metal on his tongue.

Chapter Text

Three days past since he and his friend had spoken. He spent his days doing the exact same thing he did before, besides going for lemonade. Over and over he looked at the front door, and sometimes he glanced outside through his window. He was suspicious, he couldn’t stop the paranoia, and whenever he returned home from work, he’d sit in his living room, waiting for messages that wouldn’t show up.

Later on, he cooked food and sat at his table and ate in silence. His hands shaky as he held his fork, and his stomach disagreed with him when he took a bite. He ate anyway, forcing himself to comply.

He thought of it as dreams and when he woke up, he believed it was. That he laughed with his friends out in the rough dirt, holding something heavy in his hands, knowing exactly what it was when he fired it. The screams during the night when he cut someone’s throat open, and called it a successful mission.

Blood became nothing to him when he wiped it on his pants. A series of open scars became trophies of what he went through, bullets being pulled from his skin, swallowing painkillers and alcohol until he fell asleep.

How long had he gone through it?

He was twenty-six. He started when he was twenty. Three years and the nightmares started, and he couldn’t sleep to them anymore, and his shaking hindered his skills. Something was wrong with him when he couldn’t handle a gunfire.

He decided to walk away, clear his head and maybe return when he had everything sorted out.

He never returned.

The pain unfurled inside of him and crumpled up or burning away. A sense of urgency that cut him in thin lines as soft as wind at night. Sweat and breathy groans, blankets pushed to the side, images smeared away from his memories but never truly fading.

The sounds were worse everyday, reminding him of the pain.

What could he do to change things? Make them right?

He didn’t think there was a moment in his life that could help him.

It took him awhile, but he glared at shadows in his peripheral vision, always masked by anger inside, and he knew letting it fall over him like soft rain would never help. He would not fall, not for too long because he knew when he’d hit the ground.

It was heart wrenching screams that haunted his reality. Folding inward of mended scars, and crazy smiles that lasted seconds. Bloodied teeth and blunted nails digging hard in rough skin.

How heavenly it was to swim in chaos once upon a time.

At least when he could take it, when it was a thrill inside his veins that ran into his beating heart, a dream that mixed with reality, a taste like sugar on his tongue when dawn appeared in the horizon.

A whisper of his name from a forgotten memory that was clouded by fog. Oh, how much he wanted to forget a bit longer, not until that particular wound reopened and all he wanted to do was walk away. Far enough until he could no longer hear his name.

Why did you come back?

Evan started to get ready to go to bed. Cleaning up the plates and doing dishes, making sure the lights were turned off before settling down in his room. Before he could even lie down, he heard the slightest sound and he didn’t question it. There was no point in questioning it. He moved to the side of his room where his closet was, slowly opened the door and stepped inside. He kept the door slightly ajar and waited.

He had no weapons in his apartment, he didn’t need anything. His friends made sure that he wasn’t traced or anything. He was okay for these entire three years, but looks like his best friend left a trail for them to follow.

How inconvenient.

Evan stayed still, but he was shaking, and he tried his best to keep his breathing under control but it only brought back memories he didn’t want to think of when something like this was happening.

It was the slightest sound, one second past, then another, and a creak gave them away.

Evan clenched his teeth, trying to calm down while telling himself lies.

They’ll go away, and he won’t have to deal with them. They’ll figure out no one’s here and that’ll be that.

Who was he kidding? He knew these types of people, and they were quite thorough. They weren’t leaving until they found someone.

He was an alien. Unnatural to everything he thought he was, and when he looked in the mirror, it wasn’t really him. What a strange concept, but most people who hate themselves can’t look in the mirror at their own reflection, so maybe this wasn’t as unnatural as he thought. Just the way he lived, and way he reacted was unnatural.

The second the dark figure came into his view, his heart raced in his chest, and paranoia clung to his skin, the thoughts told him to stop, but what he knew before in every scenario he had placed himself in.

He was too quick, to eager, to ruthless to not listen.

He reached for the gun with his left hand, his right came down and weakened the wrist as the gun was pushed upward, finger away from the trigger, the butt of the gun hitting the figure in the face. He kicked at the knee, and when they stumbled forward, he hit the figure in the back of the neck and caught the body before they hit the ground.

Lowering them silently, he took the gun, looked for another mag, and quietly left the room. He checked the hall, gripping the sides of the gun, he slammed the end into the next figure’s face coming out from the bathroom, dragging their gun from their hand and discarding it on the ground, he grasped the pistol from their holster on their side, placed it to their stomach and fired twice.

They groaned and slid from the wall, it was too dark to see but there was faint outline of blood smearing on the creme colored wallpaper.

Before he could turn around, he was shot in the shoulder, falling forward, he gripped the handle of the pistol as the figure moved toward him carefully.

“Stay where you are,” they told him.

Evan shot them when they were close, gun hidden under his arm, shaky hand holding it tightly. The bullet hit them in the chest, the next was pointed toward their arm where they held the gun, weakening their grip.

He kicked them in the face, shoving them back and placing his foot down on the gun and wrenching it from their hand.

He pointed the gun down and fired.

The silence made him come back to reality and he stumbled to the side, dropping the assault rifle, but holding onto the pistol. He fell on the floor, hand covering his bloody wound where the bullet had sunk into.

After a moment, he went to the sink, hauled himself up and washed off the blood. He tore at his shirt and covered the wound as a makeshift bandage. It wouldn’t work for long, there was too much blood, the wound hot and opened up. He’d need the bullet out soon.

Evan breathed heavily, trying to calm himself down, but the sounds made his vision go out for a moment. He needed to leave, they wouldn’t have sent this many people after someone like him. They’d be careful, assured of their own numbers. Unless they were cocky, he didn’t mind either way.

Evan staggered to his bedroom where he grabbed a bag and stuffed a few clothes inside. He grabbed his phone, dialed a number as he headed for the door of his apartment.

“Hello?” a woman’s voice entered his ear, she sounded bored.

“Number four, eight, zero, one, seven, four. Alias, Vanoss. Can you get in touch with H2oDelirious?”

“What is your request, Vanoss?” she asked.

“Tell him to track my phone and find me in ten minutes.” He locked the door, noticed a few people were outside, some were speaking to each other, but he heard someone was calling the cops and he needed to leave before they got to his apartment.

“Done,” she said, “it was nice hearing from you again.” Then she hung up.

He tucked his phone into his pocket and turned the corner where the stairs were.

He needed to get away, but the sounds were still in his head, over and over he could hear the bullets and their groans when he shot them.

It was a degradation he hoped to avoid, no one to see him fall, to experience the hallucinatory ways of his mind that was trying to block it out, but the sounds were too loud, a fire that provoked his bitter skill set where he thought he buried them. Instead he dug it up the second he needed to save his life.

He wanted to forget, but all he did was remember, and that would never leave him.

Chapter Text

He went as far as he could, away from his apartment where most of the residences were either standing in the hallways or outside in the front. It was enough people for him to make his way through without anyone noticing him. It gave him seconds to escape, but he slowed after two blocks, and he panted from the pain, the night air was chilly, and his legs were giving out.

He sat down on the sidewalk, rocking back and forth. Every time he closed his eyes, the sounds echoed, but he was so tired, that he did close his eyes and the nights events flashed in his head over and over again.

He didn’t know how long he was sitting on the sidewalk, but he heard something from far away. A slam of a door and the pounding of their feet as they drew closer. A hand grasped his shoulder, making him gasp.

“Vanoss.” He looked into the eyes of his best friend, the worry was obvious as he looked over his body, hands holding his shoulder before he looked over his bullet wound. “Other than your flesh wound, are you okay?”

He stared at him, rocking back and forth.

“It’s okay,” he said, helping him to his feet, “I’ll take care of you.” He led him toward the cab that was sitting by the curve and they crawled into the back. He sat beside him before telling the cab an address that sounded like a lie in his ears, but he couldn’t focus.

The cab turned around and began driving down the street. Two blue and red flashing cars drove by, the sounds were loud, and a groan left his lips.

“Is he alright?” the cab driver asked, glancing in the rearview mirror.

“He’s fine, had too much to drink.”

He blinked slowly to ease his eyes from burning, and when it didn’t lessen, he leaned his head against the window. Staring at the passing houses, and mostly at the barely glinting stars above where the light pollution blocked out an array of them from sight.

Was there peace up in the sky? In the galaxy far apart from each other, were they able to not think? Did hydrogen and helium even think? What a stupid question.

“You really showed them, didn’t you?” he said, a whisper between them, touching his hand where it once held the gun that killed those three men. He didn’t even have to think, he let his body figure it out, even if he was shot, jerking forward, his hand didn’t let go until the last was dead.

Muscle memory. He did it so much in the past that his instincts moved before his thoughts could intervene. The same routine, either in the training room with bright lights, or out on the field with nothing but his wits. He was better, more attuned to what he was doing, enjoying the sounds of gun firing and enemies dying. At least he thought they were enemies, he never questioned his missions, he never asked who they were and why they were out to kill them.

He knew then that if he did, it would stay on his mind. A weakness that would stop him from pulling the trigger. He wouldn’t stop thinking about whatever family they had, whatever dreams they wished they could accomplish. It would ruin the entire operation, and so he did not look at who they were, and he only saw them as targets.

“Are you going to say something?” he asked, his fingers dancing over his knuckles, soft and smooth as they drew to his arm, but never getting close to his wound that was throbbing, warmth and cold mingling together around the blood that was drying on his skin. “Vanoss? Can you hear me?”

Where were they? Where are they going?

“I’ll explain everything when we get to HQ.”

He blinked, and when he opened his eyes, the cab stopped and he was being nudged out of the car. He held the strap of his bag in his hands as he stood on an empty road. Watching him pay the driver before making his way around toward him.

He was dressed in a long dark coat with a grey shirt underneath, baggy jeans, and black sneakers. He was a few inches taller than him, with short hair, and dark eyes that looked empty in the low light of the street they were standing on.

“I have a car,” he said, indicating with the raise of his chin, “I’ll drive the rest of the way.” He took the bag from his hands and slung it over his shoulder, and started walking.

He followed after, tilting his head away from his wounded shoulder and wringing his clammy hands to ease the panic that was slowly rising with each heartbeat.

They walked through a yard that looked quite abandoned to an old looking garage, it was slanted from the muddy ground that couldn’t hold it over the years, and the white paint was peeling, the small side window was covered in grime.

A silver key glinted between his fingers as he stood in front of the chained doors. Unlocking the chain, it fell to his feet and he opened the doors to a car that was covered in a tarp that looked faintly like moss. He pulled it off of a midnight blue car that had no dents on the sides, the glass barely had any smudges, and it didn’t even look used. It was sleek and exquisite.

“I know,” he said, dropping the tarp, “why am I stashing this beautiful thing here, it wasn’t my idea, and it’s partially not even mine. Lui wanted cars all over the city in case we needed something fast and modified.” He knocked his knuckles against the hood, a grin stretching across his face—there was something ominous about him in the dark. “Bulletproof, including the wheels and the glass.”

He took out another key and pushed it into the door, then he pulled it open. Unlocking the passenger, and slid inside.

He stood, staring while the unease wouldn’t fade from his mind. He walked to the passenger door, opened the door and sat inside. The leather seat was brand new, the smell wasn’t affected by the musky old garage it sat in.

His friend chuckled, his hands sliding along the steering wheel. “Finally, I’ve wanted to use this for sometime, but never got the opportunity.” He started the car and slowly backed up, stopping outside of the garage and turning the car toward the street.

They were silent for so long, even as they left the city and the glittering bright lights were gone from the dark curving streets. They passed dim lit light posts, but that was all there was as the night sky began to reveal itself, looking more beautiful than it did in the city with its limited stars.

He turned down the radio to a murmur. “I know you don’t want to talk, and I know you’re mad at me for bringing you back into this bullshit, but this is important. Our friends are missing, and we haven’t heard anything since then.”

He counted the stars, each one that looked like a pattern, or even the brightest. He even noticed a planet in its depths, and several moving satellites.

“Are you listening to me?”

Why did they make stars into stories? Why are stars zodiacs and horoscopes? Why are stars even considered telling the future when they’re nothing but glowing gasses far away? It’s all so strange, questions he never thought he’d ask himself. Why was—

“Vanoss!” A firm hand grabbed his wrist, and he flinched, his entire body went completely still besides his heart that was racing painfully against his ribcage. He watched him, waiting for his hold to loosen, but it didn’t. He looked conflicted, his gaze solely on the road, but there was also a shortness of breath leaving his lips. “I’m sorry.” He finally let go.

Slowly, he curled his fingers and moved his body toward the door. His shoulders tensed, and he winced when he moved the one with the bullet wound.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, trying to control his breathing. “I’m sorry, but you’re not listening to me. You’re closing yourself off to me, and I’m trying to tell you what’s happening, and we need your help.”

He stared down at his hands and began to rock slowly in his seat.

“We’ll talk more at the base. Okay?”

The loud sounds returned inside his head, and he tightly closed his eyes, biting down on his lip to stop himself from screaming. Bullet after bullet after bullet, and the bodies kept on falling, landing flat on the ground, either alive and seconds to live, and others simply dead.

“Vanoss. Hey, Vanoss….stop biting your lip, I can see blood.”

He could barely hear him over the loud noises, the smile that was once on his face, the laughter bubbling inside his chest, and with a single movement, he pulled the trigger.

The car came to a screeching stop, and his eyes opened, he reached for the seat belt and unbuckled himself before grasping the door and shoving it open. He stumbled, almost falling to the hard ground, but holding himself up and ready to start sprinting when his wrist was grasped, and he was yanked back.

He gasped, almost tripping over his own feet, but he hit the car and it kept him from falling.

He was staring at him, incredulous and on the verge of anger. “What the fuck are you doing?” When he didn’t answer, he sneered, “Where would you go? Your apartment is compromised, you brought everything you thought you needed, and you’re trying to head back, to what? There’s nothing for you to go back too? All you’re asking for is to die.”

He tried pulling his wrist free, but his fingers dug into his skin.

He stepped closer, his voice low and dangerous, when he said, “Our friends are gone, and you’re thinking about yourself, like always.”

His teeth gritted, he raised his foot and slammed it down on his poorly unprotected sneaker, he was caught off balance by the sudden action, and it was enough time to pull his wrist free, fingers curled and he punched him in the face as hard as he could.

Stumbling, he recovered with a hand on his face, glaring at the gun that was pointed at him. “What are you going to do? Kill me? Is that what you’re going to do, Vanoss? Kill your best friend?”

He didn’t realize he reached for the gun he hid away, the one he stole from the men who invaded his apartment. The ones he killed without a thought of the lives he was taking, their bodies hitting the floor like an echo inside his head, the gun firmly held in his shaky hand, hot from use.

He sucked in a breath, and dropped his hand. He raised his head to the sky and all its stars. How he wish to be nothing more than something far away. He disregarded his friend who continued to glare at him and he sat back into the car.

Few seconds after, Delirious also got into the car, and they were silent the entire drive. He didn’t know what he wanted from him, what he could do to help them when he could barely help himself.

Chapter Text

“What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s been like this since I found him. Asshole pulled a gun on me…”

“He doesn’t look right, maybe you freaked him out.”

“I don’t fucking know.”

“You should try to take out the bullet, if you can’t, close the wound. It would be better without him looking like he’s going to have a mental breakdown.”

The voices were covered by the ringing in his ears. He was sitting in one of the offices in the bunker, his bag was at his feet, and his fingers were clasped. He was staring at the floor, and not at the three standing several feet away from him.

“Hey, Vanoss,” Delirious’s voice entered his ear, a bit rough and annoyed, “I’m going to take the bullet out of your arm. Can you take off your sweater?”

He didn’t respond, and when he didn’t move. Delirious slowly dragged the sweater off his shoulders, down his arms, and settling it on the table behind him. He pulled out his own chair and sat down, then he rolled up his sleeve, and he winced at the slight pain from the dried blood pulling from the skin.

“Moo, can you get me some water and a cloth. The wound clotted.”

“That’s a good thing. At least he didn’t bleed to death.”

“Or it could’ve hit something vital.”

“If it did, he would’ve been dead before you found him. Where did you find him?”

“He sent a message to a service worker and she told me where he was.”

“A service worker? Those people are still active?”

“I guess so.”

A bowl was placed on the table, including a few small cloths. Delirious placed a bit of the cloth in the water and dabbed at the blood.

He didn’t respond, his mind was entirely fuzzy by the loud noises still inside his head. He couldn’t get it out, and he tried his hardest to keep it from breaking him down.

“Did you take his phone out?” the other asked, his voice familiar. Wildcat. Tyler. He grabbed his phone, took it out and then he heard a loud crack. “Sorry about that, Vanoss, but your phone is a liability.”

“What about his bag?” Moo asked, kneeling down in front of him and unzipping his bag. “What did he pack exactly?”

“I don’t think Vanoss is dumb enough to take anything obvious.”

“The trauma of killing made him forget about his phone, so who knows, maybe he forgot something else,” Wildcat said.

Moo picked through his bag. Pulling out pieces of his clothes and laying them on the floor, before pulling out several bottles.

“What are those?” Wildcat asked.

Delirious stopped and looked what was in Moo’s hands.

“Prescription drugs,” Moo said, reading the labels, “this is for depression, this for anxiety. They’re high doses. And this one is a sedative.”

“He has a hard time sleeping?” Wildcat asked. “Join the fucking club, Vanoss, you’re not the only one who gets nightmares.”

Moo placed them on the floor. “Who knows, we’re all different.”

“Not so different from the pills he takes. The rest of us just deals with it in different way,” Wildcat said.

Delirious dabbed at the blood, pulling pieces of blood from his skin and dropping it onto the table. “Can you get me a needle and thread. The wound festered, so I might also need an ointment, and something to grab the bullet itself.”

Moo stood and walked off somewhere else.

A hand came in front of Vanoss’s face. “He’s really...fucked up.”

“I think he can still hear you,” Delirious told Wildcat, “he heard me when I was talking to him.”

“I don’t give a fuck. He left us for three fucking years and comes back like this?”

Evan blinked at the harsh words leaving Wildcat’s lips. He could see the sneer on his face, the blame is to easy for him to afflict on him. Evan did leave, and he didn’t look back. He was trying to deal with his problems, but every time he tried confronting it, he broke down.

“We need to focus on something else besides this,” Moo said, his voice trembling.

The others seemed to notice, and Wildcat walked away. Moo took the chair on Evan’s left, reading the labels off the medication before placing everything back into his bag.

“How long do you think he’ll be like this?” Moo asked.

“I’m not sure,” Delirious said, he was dabbing around the wound with a dry towel. “Whatever he did, he managed to kill the people who targeted him, it might have been me that led them to him. I didn’t think they’d attack him right away.”

“He did have a reputation,” Moo said. Evan can see him wringing his fingers in his lap after Moo had zipped up the bag.

“Yeah, but he’s been inactive for three years.”

Moo placed something in front of Evan, a pill and a bottle of water. “It’ll help with the pain.”

Evan stared, blinking a few times, his body tensed.

Moo leaned closer, tipping Evan’s head up slightly and opening his mouth. He placed the pill inside, and helped him drink a bit of the water. It took a moment for Evan to swallow it, but he gave a soft nod that gave them both an incentive to know that he was listening and aware.

The pill began to work after a few minutes and Delirious was already looking for the bullet. The pain was sharp, but he held onto it, sucking in a breath and being soothed by Moo.

“I can’t find it,” Delirious murmured.

“Is it embedded into a bone or something?” Moo asked.

Delirious shook his head. “He would be in a bit more pain if he was, but he hasn’t mentioned anything.”

“I don’t think he’d tell you.”

A chill ran down Evan’s spine, and they seemed to notice his reaction. Moo tilted his head, while Delirious continued looking for the bullet.

He was trying his hardest to keep it all in. The sounds in his head, the feel of the trigger pushing down as the gun grew hot with use. The bodies falling flat on the ground, lifeless, empty, dead. The blood sprayed on the walls, soaking the floor. His small apartment had echoed over and over like a shell to one's ear.

A burn made Evan flinch, and Moo gripped his shoulder, while Delirious held him on his side. He murmured something that Evan could barely hear, and his own body was shaking, numb from the pills he swallowed.

“Finally,” Delirious said, almost like a whisper in his ear.

“You got it?” Moo asked, his voice also sounded off, closed away inside a closet, inaudible to his senses.

“Yeah, obviously shrapnel is inside, but he’ll live with it.” Delirious touched his arm, “Hey, Evan, I’m going to stitch your arm up and then you can sleep for a bit. Okay?”

He didn’t respond, and Delirious went to work. Moo watched him, speaking to Delirious about mundane topics.

Evan was trapped inside his head, locked away with the sounds and the images. He wanted to cry, to curl up and stop the noise from destroying his mind.

Several minutes later, Tyler returned.

“You’re done?”

“Yeah,” Delirious said, helping Evan to his feet. “He took some painkillers, so he’ll be out for maybe a few hours.”

“We need him.”

“Guys, it’s been three whole years, how will Evan even know what we’re looking for?” Moo asked.

“He’ll know,” Tyler said, looking at Evan with determination, “Lui trusted him the most with the secrets. If anyone will know how to do this, Evan will be the one.”

“That’s great and all, but he’s traumatized—”

“We all are, he’s not fucking special.”

“Enough,” Moo said, placing his hands between Tyler and Delirious. “Lay him on the couch, Delirious. Tyler, let’s go look into some files and hope we can find something.”

“Fine, for fuck sakes.” Tyler turned on his heel and left the room.

Delirious led Evan to the couch in a dark area of the room. He grabbed Evan’s bag so he could use it as a pillow and placed it down on the seat. Evan slowly laid down, and Delirious helped him keep off his stitched arm.

Delirious knelt down beside him, smiling softly in the dark. “I’ll take a look at that later. Okay?”

Evan said nothing.

Delirious moved closer, placing his hand on the side of the couch and leaning his chin on his arm. “I missed you. I know it’s a dumb thing to say cause we haven’t seen each other in a long fucking time, and I didn’t bother calling. I knew you needed space...I didn’t want to remind you of all the bad shit that we had to go through. And I was hoping—” Delirious closed his eyes and sighed, there was something heavy on his mind, and when he looked at him once more, there was sorrow and something else that Evan knew too well. Fear. “I’m glad you’re okay. And I’m sorry I had to do this to you. I’m sorry. I know I’m being selfish, but all I wanted to say is that I really missed you, and I really wanted you to come back. Or at least...I could see you and talk to you again. Sometimes I dream about—”

“Delirious,” Tyler called from the hallway, “we need help with something. Hurry the fuck up.”

He frowned, his brows furrowed. “We can talk later. Sleep, Evan. There’s a lot shit we need help with, and you’re the only one that knows what the fuck Lui was doing all those years ago.”

He got up and Evan watched him walk away.

Evan’s eyes watered once Delirious was gone from his sight. He turned away, easing his arm so it wouldn’t hurt as much, but he could barely feel the pressure. He closed his eyes, curling slightly on the couch, as much as he could.

In his dreams...he watched them die...so many times. He’d wake up screaming, clawing at the blankets, at his skull to stop it from echoing so profoundly. He’d throw up from the pain, the nausea, the sickening reminders. His mind was his enemy and he tried to help it, to ease it into a daily routine.

And all he got was screaming, a continuous amount.

Delirious was mostly occupying his dreams, either being shot dead by someone else or by their friends, or even bleeding on the ground, screaming in pain and horror, and sometimes, Evan killed him.

Chapter Text

Vanoss grinned, he was knelt down and watching a group standing idle around a black SUV. The sun was setting, and the blue deepened while the yellow and orange began to sink deeper into the horizon. He held the weapon he brought with him and put together, making sure the magazine was secure. He hiked the sniper and gripped it, looking through the scope, he watched them. Men and women, they were all alike in their manifestation. Hiding beneath their expensive clothes. They were wolves in sheep's clothing, lurking for prey. Right now, they were waiting for their alpha to return.

Vanoss pressed the comm in his ear. “Delirious, are you ready?”

“Why the fuck wouldn’t I be?” he asked, a laugh in his voice.

A bubble of laughter rose in his own chest, but he kept it contained. He was currently about to assassinate a target—whenever they were finished. He and Delirious staked out a parking garage that sat across the street from a prestigious hotel. Their target was having an executive meeting with a few of their well known and well corrupt clients.

He received the Intel back at HQ, and he took it while the others complained. He wanted the cash, and Delirious was his backup, of course he’d have to split some of it with him. He didn’t mind, they always shared the prize whenever they worked together.

Vanoss wrinkled his nose, looking through the scope, his finger sat on the trigger. He was ready to pull it once the target steps into view. The research told them where they’d be, and when they finished. It also said how many people would surround the building, watching for assassins. Delirious made sure to secure the roofs around the hotel. He did catch a few, but none that could see Vanoss inside the parking garage.

Their bikes sat on the street on the opposite end of the parking garage, alone and waiting, and out of sight. Vanoss wondered who he was going to kill if they caught him. If they ran toward him once he shoots the killing blow to their leader. He invited anyone to try and kill them, it would be their last mistake.

What he did take notice of was that most of the men and women were a lot older than he and Delirious. Their faces withdrawn, bodies firm under their clothes that held a weapon inside. Wrinkles, receding hairlines, thin strands of grey peeking through blonde and brown hair. Several were already slouched, boredom etched on their faces. They’ve been in this game for some time, and it should make Vanoss nervous. He’s only been wandering around with a gun for two years. His skills growing up didn't fit high school, or even his attempt at university. Like most of their friends, he found his skill set in the hold of a weapon.

That was the most exciting thing about this. He could die any time by any of these people, skilled enough to kill him with their years of experience. He liked the odds, the feeling that they could kill him, it gave him a challenge. Something to seek out during these moments when he was ready to pull the trigger.

What he wasn’t ready for was his hands shaking. He held the gun and stayed focus, but he couldn’t understand why he was unsteady.

He didn't eat much for several days. Too busy to think of himself to care about food, or sleep. He might eat when he and Delirious return to the base. The thought of food made him squeeze his eyes closed. He gritted his teeth, and his head tightened, his stomach not agreeing with his future choice.

Vanoss opened his eyes, steadied his hold, and the glass doors opened. Two men walked out, one was in a black suit, the other in a grey. A woman with short blond hair stepped out wearing a teal skirt and a grey blazer. She held a brown suitcase in her hand and was speaking on the phone.

Vanoss pulled the trigger before she was out of sight. The blood sprayed when she fell, the phone falling from her hand while everyone rushed around her. Except her personnel realized what happened. Someone had assassinated their boss. And now it was time to go.

Vanoss pulled the sniper apart and placed it into a thin black case.

He closed the clasps to secure it before sprinting toward the stairs. He placed his hand to his ear, “Did you get the other one?”

“Yeah,” Delirious said, a thrill in his voice, and Vanoss can hear him panting. “I’ll keep them off of you.” Then the comm went out.

Vanoss reached the stairs, almost tripping as he descended. He laughed and continued down the stairs until he made it to the bottom. Their bikes were close by, but before he could make it there. He heard a gun cock and he stopped, his breath growing shallow.

“Turn around,” the man ordered.

Vanoss turned to see it was one of the men who was standing outside of the hotel. He was a lot older than him, he guessed he was in his late thirties. His dark hair was already greying, and there were deep lines along his sun burned face. His frown did not help.

His expression softened when he looked at Vanoss, confusion mixing with acceptance. “How old are you?”

“Why is that relevant?” Vanoss asked, his fingers tightened on the handle of the case.

“Answer my question or I’ll kill you,” he said, voice smooth and calm, less tense than Vanoss figured.

“Twenty-two.”

The man’s thin lips parted, he nodded in understanding. “I was around the same age when I started. A lot of bullshit came my way in this business. Do you want to do to this? You have time to get out.”

Vanoss smirked at the suggestion. “I killed your boss and you’re telling me to escape my lifestyle?”

“It’s better to escape than stay shackled. You kill enough people and you’ll feel the blood on your hands, your skin. You’ll smell it everywhere you go, the taste of things won’t be right anymore. And sleeping, you won’t be able to sleep without your conscious telling you this is wrong. We’re not meant to scar our mind.”

Vanoss’s resolve grew unsteady like his hands. He wanted to tell this man the truth that it was too late. He was already suffering from nightmares. That he couldn't eat without feeling nauseous. This lifestyle is already ingrained in his mind. He wanted to tell this man that he couldn’t escape even if he wanted too. And he wanted too.

A loud sound echoed inside the parking garage. It made Vanoss flinch, he sucked in a shaky breath at the feeling of splattered blood on his face.

The man laid on the ground, blood pooling around him from the bullet in the side of his head. Vanoss couldn't hear the person beside him, but they dragged him away from the dead man. Delirious was yelling, his voice was far away. There was a smile on his face, an expression of triumph and mania.

They made it to their bikes and Vanoss hopped on. He tried not to think of the man and his words, but they echoed inside his head as he drove away from the parking garage.

That only grazed the edge of his mind.

Evan opened his eyes, blinking a few times to rid the blurriness. He pushed himself up, but forgot about his arm, and winced. He couldn’t hear anything. There was only silence surrounding him. Where did they go? He finally got into a sitting position and looked around, they weren’t here. He stood, almost falling back from the dizziness, but spent a moment counting his deep breaths. He walked from the room to the hallway, listening for any particular sounds.

The dream. When he was happy, when he knew what he was doing and who he was. When he was himself, before the crying, the shaking, and the persistent nightmares. He had an out. A way to step away from the life he lived, but he couldn’t. He wished he was strong enough to walk away back then, but he wasn’t strong. He doesn't think he’s strong now. Pulled into this world again with blood on his hands, and the taste of metal on his tongue.

He heard them, they were talking over each other, and he knew they were arguing. He turned the corner, and pushed open the glass doors. Their voices became more prominent and he recognized who was in the room.

Delirious, Wildcat, Moo, Smii7y, and Kryoz.

He did say there was only five of them left. The others were gone. They didn’t know what happened, and they needed him. They needed him . What good could he do? He was holding himself up with duct tape and will power.

He stopped himself and leaned against the wall, listening to them argue.

“It was your fucking fault,” Wildcat yelled. Evan didn't know who he was directing that too. He did hear Smii7y’s laugh coming through the yelling.

“My fault? You were the one with them, you fucking asshole,” Delirious argued back. Evan closed his eyes, the ringing was coming back to him.

“Can you guys shut the fuck up,” Moo said, his voice wavering.

“I’m sorry, but Delirious was our fucking driver, you should’ve—”

“Do what exactly?” Delirious asked, cutting him off. “I was in the car, waiting for you idiots. You’re the one who didn’t do your fucking job.”

“To be fair, we were coming down by a lot of firepower,” Smii7y said, a lot calmer than the others.

“It happened so fucking fast,” Wildcat said, frustration and solemn mixed in his voice.

Evan heard a loud scraping sound before something hit the wall.

“Calm down,” Moo said, in a brittle voice. “I’m trying to figure this out.”

“You’re not going to get in that,” Smii7y said, sounding closer. “Lui knew how to do this than any of us.”

Wildcat scoffed. “Not only Lui, but Vanoss. He knew because Lui was the one who trusted him more.”

“I’m not sure if it was trust,” Delirious said.

“Oh, it was trust. He was loyal, competent, and resourceful. At least before he decided to fucking defect,” Wildcat yelled again, his voice echoing in the room.

Evan heard something fall, and Moo’s mumbled apology.

With a deep sigh, he pushed himself from the wall and walked into the room. He looked at them as their gazes fell on him. Wildcat stood near the far end by the window, a chair was lying on its side near a dent in the white wall. Delirious was too his right, hands on the back of a chair. Smii7y and Kryoz was beside Moo who had spilled his coffee cup onto the floor, and there was a wet stain on the carpet.

A laptop sat in front of Moo, and he recognized what they were trying to do.

“I’ll do that,” Evan offered to Moo who nodded.

They moved away and Evan sat in the chair. Placing his hands on the keyboard. A sharp pain in his head made him suck in a breath, and close his eyes. His flashbacks were usually like that.

This one was of Lui.

“Why don’t you trust the others?”

“I trust them,” Lui said, typing on a keyboard. “I don’t think they’d remember this stuff.”

Vanoss snickered. “And you think I will?”

Lui stopped, his fingers above the keyboard before he turned and looked at him. “I trust you because even if something were to happen, you're one of the strong people in our group. You don't fall apart in dangerous situations." Lui went back to typing. "And I'd like you to take care of them.”

That time, he didn’t know what to say. He was the least competent one, always in the back, laughing with his friends. He was not responsible, and he was no leader. He wanted to tell Lui that his choice was wrong.

Now, Evan opened his eyes and began to type. His opinion didn’t change, but the situation forced him to do things he didn’t want to do.

And that was to come back, and try to save his friends. Even if he’s broken, and his friends are fractures of their former selves. They still had to do something, and they were about to rely on him, the one who abandoned them.

Chapter Text

Evan was working on the sequence for two hours. Most of his friends left the room, leaving Moo and Delirious to occupy him. Except he wasn’t listening to their conversation. He wanted to find out where Lui was, and where their remaining friends disappeared too.

Moo sat on his left, he had a folder spread open. He told him what they were doing before Lui, Nogla, and Ohmwrecker went missing. It was a mission into a rival group’s territory. They were to infiltrate the base and retrieve stolen data. Moo hadn’t told him what the stolen data consisted of, and skimmed past that explanation. He told him the first group was gone for two days. And the second group decided to recon the area in hopes in finding out what happened to them. That was a week ago, and they heard nothing back.

Most of them weren’t on par with Lui’s hacking beside Nogla, and Vanoss. Delirious was the one who decided to find him. Delirious said they made sure no one could find his whereabouts, but they were able to if they wanted to find him.

That’s when Delirious walked up to Vanoss sitting outside drinking a lemonade.

Evan tuned out most of Delirious’s sarcasm about the event. Other than that, they knew they needed Evan’s help, and hoped he’d call. They didn’t expect him to come back bleeding, in shock, and unresponsive.

Delirious watched him from his right side, and when Moo left the room. Evan couldn't hear what Delirious was saying over his own thoughts on what Lui was doing. There was something strange about this entire event. They weren’t telling him anything about the mission itself, nor their own involvement.

Evan didn’t know what to do with that thought. How was he supposed to trust them when they couldn’t trust him with information on their recent mission. It was suspicious. And that one of them had to stay with him in the room, particularly Delirious. He was out earlier from painkillers, so they didn’t need to watch him. There was something else going on.

“Are you alright?” Delirious asked, sitting closer to him. “You aren’t responding to any of my questions.”

Evan typed in the code, bringing up a grid of the city. He hacked into the city’s mainframe, and brought up several camera systems.

“You did it,” Delirious said, getting up, “I’ll go inform the others that we’re close.”

Evan found a footage several days ago when Marcel, Scotty, Anthony, Luke, and Brian went missing. From what he could glean from their arguments and Moo’s briefing. The footage showed them stopping in front of a building. Then nothing.

Evan furrowed his brows. He checked the video three times, and stopped at the exact second where the video would switch. Sitting back in his seat. There were many options that could tell him what this meant exactly. Whoever kidnapped the second group wanted to keep it covert. So they deleted the footage, or his friends were lying to him.

He opened another tab, and looked for something else that could help with what Lui was doing. He hacked his way into the database in the building he was sitting in, and found Lui’s firewall. He wouldn’t be able to get through it, but if he could find a backdoor that could lead him into it without any trouble.

He opened the code, and typed a bit, but when he was about to start on the next sequence. Something else typed back, he looked at it. It came out of nowhere from Lui’s back door.

Hello

Evan typed back. Who are you?

Who are you?

Evan sighed, he wasn’t sure what he was looking at. Lui wouldn’t create something like this, unless it was some type of virus. Except viruses don’t work like this. He didn't open anything that could warrant one entering the database.

Vanoss

Hello, Vanoss. You might want to leave soon.

Evan’s heart raced, he stared at the words, and nausea was slowly rising in his throat. Before he could type back, he closed it when he heard the sounds of his friends returning to the room.

Evan clicked on the tab that sent him back to the security cameras. He looked for the one that showed the second group disappearing. Except the screen was gone, or the footage itself was gone. He looked around, but found nothing.

“You found something?” Wildcat asked, entering the room, followed by Delirious and Moo.

Evan sat back, “I thought I did. I managed to hack into the security cameras, I’m not really sure why you guys couldn’t do this.”

“Look, smartass, we have skills of our own, but most of us don’t partake in shit like this,” Wildcat said with less sarcasm. “Also, most of us don’t know what we’re doing, we need someone to help us, someone who understands this shit.”

“Someone like you,” Moo said, sitting down on the edge of the table. “Lui told you a lot—”

“Not that much,” Evan said, glancing at the camera system. “He might’ve trusted me, but it would’ve been better if he taught the rest of you. In case I died.”

“Or defect,” Wildcat said, pulling the laptop towards him.

Evan stood up from the chair. “I found the footage of when the second group went missing.”

“Where is it?” Delirious asked, looking at the screen.

“I don’t know,” he answered.

Wildcat cut a glance at him. “What the fuck do you mean you don’t know?”

Evan crossed his arms. “I saw it, where they went, except when I looked over the footage, there’s an entire hour missing.” This was where he decided to lie, to at least hide what he was actually doing. “I tried finding another camera, something to show me more. At least the direction. Except, there’s nothing. I went back to the footage. And it’s gone.”

Wildcat looked back at the laptop, he was still, until he got up from the chair and shoved Evan against the wall. His fingers dug into the fabric of his shirt. “You fucking bastard, you deleted it.”

“I didn’t delete it,” Evan bit out.

Delirious came to Wildcat’s side and pulled him away from Evan. “He obviously didn’t do anything. Someone must’ve known we were looking for them and deleted it while Vanoss was trying to find the footage.”

“If I find out you fucking deleted that footage.” Wildcat glared, and the threat simmered in the air as he turned and left the room, swearing down the hallway.

Delirious looked at Evan, and asked cautiously, “You didn’t, did you?”

Evan tucked his hands in his pant pockets. The wound in his shoulder still throbbed and reminded him of what was going on. “It would be a waste of time if I did.”

Moo organized the files, watching several in the last hour.

Evan found another t-shirt to wear, something that didn’t have a rip in it and blood stains along the shoulder. He picked a simple white shirt and pulled it over, careful not to strain his arm. He later found a dark sweater and put his arms through it. He sat down on the bench in the common area and rubbed his forehead.

He had no idea what was going on. They weren’t telling him anything, and his attempt to find out what thwarted his chances. What was he going to do? He had to know what they were conducting in the last three weeks. Lui’s reports were empty when he seeked them out. He found it suspicious, and when he tried voicing this concern to Delirious, he brushed it off.

Evan walked into the kitchen and looked for something to drink. He found a pitcher of juice and when he closed the fridge. Delirious leaned against the counter, watching Evan.

“Move,” Evan said, and Delirious did. He reached into the cabinet for a cup and poured his juice. “Is there something you wanted to discuss?”

“I wanted to say I’m sorry.”

Evan nodded. “You can apologize as much as you want.” He put the pitcher back into the fridge, “it won’t change the fact that I don’t want to be here.”

“We asked for your help to find our friends and you’re acting like this doesn’t matter.” Delirious shook his head, running his fingers through his short hair.

Evan sat down at the table, looking at the juice. “What do you want me to say? That I’m sorry that I defected? That I couldn’t handle it while the rest of you can. I’m sorry that I had to deal with this on my own. I’m sorry that it got to me, but I couldn’t handle sleeping, or eating, or doing anything besides pull the fucking trigger.” He blinked back the tears and took a sip of his juice.

Delirious sighed, leaning against the counter again. “You could’ve said something. Told us that you weren’t going to return.”

Evan scoffed. “Like that matters. None of you called or came to visit. You knew where I was, how to get a hold of me. And yet, I heard nothing. Don’t find excuses for not doing shit, Delirious.”

Delirious looked at him like a kicked puppy. He opened his mouth to say something, but shook his head and left the room.

Evan took another sip of his juice. It was cold on his tongue, going down his throat, but it didn’t help him wake up. Or feel anything particular while sitting inside the base. He needed fresh air, and a place to go where he didn’t have to think too much about the blood on his hands.

An hour later, Evan made coffee and was drinking most of the pot when Moo entered the kitchen. He wore a black jacket and it looked like a bulletproof vest was beneath it. “We found a lead on the other side of the city. We’re going to check it out. Do you want to come over or are you going to stay and watch the fort?”

“Is anyone else staying?”

Moo shook his head. “No, we’re all going. Wildcat wanted this to work, and going alone would get one of us killed.”

Evan placed his cup down. “I’ll stay.”

Moo had a drained expression, his eyes were heavy and there were bags beneath them. Since coming to the base, he noticed Moo didn’t like loud noises. Not even when Wildcat or Delirious yelled. Evan understood that, and he was about to ask why he was going when Moo turned and said, “I’ll tell the others.”

Evan drank the rest of his coffee and walked down the hall. He heard nothing, no one was talking, there was no noise. They were gone.

Evan went back to the conference room and found the laptop sitting on the table. He opened it and right away there was a message from someone, and the time stamp said ten seconds ago.

You might want to leave soon.

Chapter Text

Evan walked through the base. His thoughts stayed on the message on the computer. It was cryptic, and he tried looking for a source. Except there was nothing. No trail that he could find that could lead him to a sender. It was suspicious. He wanted to figure out who could find their way through Lui’s firewall.

What did bother him was that he kept thinking that Delirious and the others were messing with him. They sent it, and they left so they could watch him become more paranoid as time went on. He knew it was irrational, but the thought was there, and so Evan went to the armoury and found a gun and picked up two magazines. He tucked them into his pockets and went back to the computer where he brought up the security cameras that surrounded the base.

What he found made him clench his teeth and tap onto the keyboard a few times. One of the cameras were out when a few minutes ago it wasn’t. He spotted a shadow near another before the camera that was near the entrance went out.

Evan’s heart raced. Was it Delirious? Why would they play a game when two groups of their friends are messing? Maybe that was a joke. Just so he could return to them. If it was, he wasn’t going to look back once the joke comes to fruition. Holding the gun wasn’t much of a comfort. He didn’t like holding it. The reminder of its weight and his finger against the trigger. He’d probably point it at his friends when they show up and throw confetti in his face. He’d watch the horror as he fires the gun at them.

To his surprise, he was quite serious about this thought. He didn’t know why. Three years with little concern to his friends made him quiet inside. There was no rage that swirled, that made him run, grit his teeth, shove his fist into their faces. Not even the stillness of his heart when he would kill someone in cold blood. Nothing of that. An icy wind pressed to his cheek, a reminder of how out of touch he was to himself, his friends, and his surroundings.

The silence of the base was interrupted by the low whispers somewhere inside the building. Evan closed the laptop, and left the room. Watching the halls and stepping into the shadows of empty rooms. He listened as the vibrations on the ground moved with their steps, the air disturbed of the night air where they had come through. A secret hatch on the roof. Easily accessible if one was looking for it, the blueprints were kept inside the archives room. Lui didn’t want anyone knowing about it.

Looks like he was wrong, again.

Evan stayed still, waiting for them to move closer. He listened to their breathing, to their proximity and counted.

There were five of them. Armored by their weight and the guns they held. Steady in their hands. It would take time to kill them all, even if he held the upper hand. He’d get himself injured in the fight, and he didn’t want that if he was going to leave this place in the next ten minutes. He waits until they’re all past him, and he sneaks by without letting them hear him. They’re speaking, wondering why no one was in the building with them.

“Must be hiding,” one says, indicating with the barrel of his gun, “go that way. I’ll check these rooms.”

“Why would these type of people hide from us? I thought they were famous or something?”

“They’re pussies if they’re hiding from us,” another laughs.

Evan checked his gun, hiding in another room. The man who spoke walked by, mumbling words under his breath. Before he could fully leave Evan’s view. He reached back, grabbed him, and before the man could yell or even pull the trigger of his assault rifle, Evan pushed deep into his neck with the knife, and left a long drawn out cut. Blood gurgled from the man’s throat, and Evan dragged him into the room. Slowly placing him down onto the floor, and grabbing his gun.

He stepped from the room, watching the halls, then making his way across to the next corridor that lead to the main area of the base. The quiet was deafening. His own heart beat could echo off the walls of this silent place his friends called home.

His hands were shaking. He was never bothered by other people deaths when he was the one ending them. At least not until it became too much until the enemy decided to threaten the lives of his friends, and himself. Now they're base was compromised, and he had no idea how he was going to inform them of this simple fact. He only had one plan, and that was leaving. These men came in a vehicle of some kind. It would be ridiculous if they walked. Out in the darkness in the middle of nowhere, a group of men ready for a small scale war with another group who weren’t even inhabited inside their HQ.

Evan breathed a sigh of relief when he found the entrance to the base. He heard the yelling first hand. The thumps on the ground vibrated, a frantic stampede of animals who had idea where to go, or who to attack.

They were older, more mature, maybe a little stupid. But he never thought he’d come across men who didn’t know how to handle themselves when they came upon one of their comrades with their neck slit. Another dead body to sleep too. Last words ringing inside his head, he’d have to drink something cold that’d burn his senses in a matter of swallows.

It was the only medicine he had once upon a time. Maybe he could try and find a way to go down that same road. Get lost for a few months. Find himself alone with bottles surrounding the mattress he’s lying on, and the sun streaming through the blinds would wake him up to the reality that he was at a dead end.

At least this is what he could imagine while bullets spit from automatic weapons. Men in dark armor with no facial features beneath plastic reflections. Evan yanks the door open and stumbles out into the cold night. He scrambles, gripping the gun and running toward a vehicle sitting by the road. The night did nothing to hinder its location, it was practically a splotch amongst the grey atmosphere of pale stones and dark hands of dry bushes rooted in the starving earth.

He brought his hand up and pulls the trigger, shattering the glass of the driver seat window. It’s hidden by the guns the men behind him are releasing in a flare of bright sparks that hit the side of the vehicle. He’s grazed twice, and a cut splits his skin from the shattered glass when he reaches into the car to pull at the lock. Dragging the door open, Evan lowers himself, and to his surprise, and not exactly his expectation, but they left the keys in the ignition.

They’re yelling words he doesn’t have time to comprehend, because now he has time to leave. And for once, it’s not because he wants too. He drives away as quickly as he can, the lights shine on the men, slowing their footfalls, and even their bullets slamming into the car, shattering more glass. Nothing hits Evan, and he keeps his foot on the gas until he’s far from the base.

He knew for a long time, he was lucky. One day he might not be, but he hopes those days aren’t soon.

He drives for a long time, the only stability he has left besides the ringing in his ears, the exhilaration not letting go of the tight hold it has around his heart, and his hands gripping the steering wheel. He wants to yell at Delirious. Wonders where he is, hoping that if he’s alive somewhere in the world, he could have the opportunity to beat the living shit out of his best friend for putting him in the situation that is bringing back pain more than nostalgia.

He never expected both to render him useless, but then again, he wasn’t that useless. Three in his house, one in his former home. Four lives taken in a matter of several hours. A day. All of it stolen away. He wished he was better, and he knew that he had the opportunity to run from this.

What Evan did instead was slow the car down when he found a lone gas station in the middle of nowhere. He stopped the car by the edge of the road, got out and walked until he stopped in front of the pay phone. He was sweating, wiping it from his face, and rubbing it off on his pant legs.

He dialed a number into the pay phone. Listened to a voice saying he didn’t have coins, and dialed another number. A rhythm played out, a pattern he and Lui created a long time ago. Maybe Wildcat was right, maybe he was favored. He always figured that Lui didn’t need someone like Evan to know the indepth secrets he held away from everyone. Evan told Lui the truth all the time, he was free with his words. He didn’t care about what Lui wanted him to know.

But everyone needed a back up, and Evan was Lui’s.

“Hello?” Delirious. He sounded confused, and also lowered to that deep voice he sometimes has.

“It’s me, Evan.”

“Vanoss...how did you get this number?”

“Lui and I organized these secured lines years ago, but that’s not the reason why I’m calling.”

“Shouldn’t you be at the base, where are you?”

Evan closed his eyes, leaning his head against the side of the payphone. “HQ has been compromised...I had to leave.”

“What? Are you serious? Are you okay?”

Evan nodded. “I’m fine. I got away, Delirious, don’t go back there.”

“I’ll tell the others. Where are you? We’ll come get y—”

“Don’t listen to him.”

Evan opened his eyes, and his heart squeezed, he stared at the receiver and was slightly dizzy by the voice in his ear. “Who is this?”

“Who do you think it is, Evan?”

It couldn’t been him. He was stolen away several weeks ago, no contact, nothing. Why was he hearing his voice? “Lui?”

And he said something Evan wasn’t sure he was hearing. He closed his eyes at Lui’s brief words, intense and complicated.

“Don’t listen to him, he’s lying to you.”

Chapter Text

Evan splashed water on his face inside the dingy gas stations bathroom. He was surrounded by colorful graffiti with words he’d rather not read. Gripping the grime stained ceramic sink, he heaved ragged breathes with his eyes tightly closed. Since the phone call, his mind went completely silent. He wasn’t used to that. The noise became a comfort over the last three years, even if they woke him up, left him in to wander the days in a constant blur.

It was enough.

Auto-pilot.

It let him live, it controlled him, and without it. He wanted to throw up all the pain he felt, and sleep it off for several days.

He didn’t take his bag that had all his prescription pills. He once told himself that he could live without them, find the control he wanted when he used to hold a gun without shaking. He failed every time. Proving himself wrong, but he tried anyway.

Evan whimpered, cupping his hands under the rushing cold water and splashed it onto his face. The shock made him tense, but it was enough to wake him up. He couldn’t get rid of the shakes, and his heart raced since he ran from the phone outside. The cashier looked at him odd, and pointed the direction outside to the public bathroom. He unlocked the door for him, and said to be out in ten minutes.

Evan stayed in the bathroom longer than that. He checked his bullet wound and the stitches had pulled during his time escaping, while the grazes weren’t bad. He rinsed his hands and turned the faucet until the water stopped running. He didn’t use the towel hanging from the rusted metal bar attached to the wall. Instead he dried his hands with his sweater and walked out of the bathroom.

The cold wind prickled his uncovered skin, mostly his neck and his collarbone. He rubbed his nape, trying to ease the feeling as he walked down the road and back into the darkness until he came upon the abandoned truck he stolen. He got back in, and drove several miles until he found an inconspicuous area covered in tall trees and foliage where he knew the vehicle wouldn’t be found for a few days.

He got out and continued walking along the road. Alone in the dark reminded him too closely of when he used to wake up with Delirious begging him to respond to him. He didn’t understand back then, and it made him panic. He was always miles from the base, the morning touching the horizon. Delirious rarely sounded tired and desperate, but in those moments, Evan couldn’t even understand himself.

He wore the same attire of when he went to sleep the previous night with no memory of when he left the base.

Delirious held his arms in a tight grip, and Evan curled his fingers in the fabric of his grey shirt. His legs shook badly and he landed hard on his knees, gasping for air that felt impossible to take in. Squeezing out warm tears from his eyes, he’d whimper, whispering, muttering, words that he couldn’t focus on.

He couldn’t hear Delirious through his chaotic thoughts, and he managed to lift Evan to his feet when he couldn’t do it himself.

“I can’t walk! I can’t walk!”

Delirious dragged him along the rough scorching terrain toward the fading road where Wildcat or even Moo would be waiting with a truck. There was always pity on their faces, and sometimes they would look away. He never could tell if it was shame or sadness.

Each episode that came afterwards were the same, some were heavy and other times, light. He didn’t understand why they began, but they never lessened for days. Eventually he noticed a pattern. It always happened either before a mission, or after a mission.

Delirious found him on three separate times, Lui found him twice, Moo and Terroriser fortunately caught him leaving the base, while Nogla led him back to his bedroom.

They spent days locking the doors and windows, and sometimes they even managed to lock Evan’s bedroom.

Lui mentioned it was creepy because sometimes they heard Evan banging against the door, screaming their names, calling for help that someone was in the room with him. When he came too, and they unlocked the door to his bedroom, he would be on his bed, lying down without the covers or the pillows. He was exhausted from whatever he was doing during the night. Moo fixed up his wounds from when he punched the door until his knuckles bled.

Lui had him examined for psychological trauma that was surfacing, but Evan was determined to deal with it on his own. At least until several weeks later, the episodes began to fade away, and he no longer walked around while he slept.

Evan put his thumb up once the sun was rising, and the sky turned the entire road to a light bluish tint. He waved his thumb at vehicles driving by, waiting and hoping someone would slow down. Eventually someone did, and he squeezed in a van filled with modern hippies heading for the beach in the city. It was packed with drunks leaning against each other, and some who were high off whatever drug they took to ease the drive back into the city. He sat in the back and breathed in the drug wafting in the air that calmed him down. He took an offered beer and cracked it open, tossing the cap out the open window.

“What party did you come from?” a girl asked, wearing a frilly white dress and brown boots. She combed through her tawny hair with her fingers, her natural blue eyes were surrounded by a reddish hue, and she wore a lazy smile upon her dry lips.

Evan blinked and flinched when he heard the sounds of bullets smashing through glass inside his head. His hand went to his pocket where he still held onto the pistol and magazine. He thought he lost it during the skirmish back at the base when he was evading the soldiers.

Touching the outline of the gun relieved him of his initial panic, and he managed to smile at the girl. “Not the kind of party you’d like to go too.”

“I’ve been to many,” she said, leaning close to him. “I can handle whatever party you’re into.”

“You’ve been to a party where you’re constantly trying to figure out what is real?” he asked her, letting the words slip past his lips.

Her brows furrowed, and she leaned back. “You’re serious?” she asked, "that's every party I've been too. At least with the right fix." And then she laughed.

She didn’t believe him, and he wished he didn’t believe it either.

He drank the beer and dropped it on the floor of the van. The girl, Lily, gave him another and he drank it slowly. The sun was rising faster, and when they drove up a steep hill and down. The sun almost blinded him, but he spotted the city he ran from. Where it all began. Evan leaned his head against the window and watched the cars driving by, becoming more clustered by the second as they drove upon the highway and into the city.

“You got a lover you’re running from?” Lily asked. She was leaned back against the seat, her eyes closed, and her hand around her own beer she opened several minutes ago.

“A lover?” he asked, glancing at her.

She nodded. “Everyone wants to run away from one when they’re fucking up.”

Evan smiled, “I never had one.”

“Are you serious?” she asked, smiling. “That’s unfortunate. You’re pretty.”

“Thanks, I think.”

“Take a compliment where you can get one,” Lily said, “it’s how you live life without being so damn serious about it. But I’m serious, Evan, how can you not be dating someone?”

He shrugged, taking a sip of his beer. “No one ever said they wanted me in that way.”

Lily opened her eyes and sat forward, tilting her head to the side. “Maybe it’s because your dense.”

“I don’t know if I should take that as a compliment.”

Rolling her eyes, she pressed a finger against his shoulder and he winced. Pulling her hand away, she stared at him, “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”

Evan nodded, fingers curling in his lap. “Yeah...that party was really fucked up.”

Lily nodded slowly, her brows drawn together. “I was going to say is that you seem a little caught up inside your head. Maybe whoever you’re running from wants to know what you think, and you’re not letting them.”

He was a bit slow in wondering what she was talking about, but looked away when he realized they were still talking about this imaginary lover of his.

“I’ve been truthful toward you this entire time.” The words were automatic, and he felt no guilt in speaking them.

“I’m a stranger.” She leaned against the seat again and closed her eyes. “I don’t count in whatever world you live in.”

He didn’t say anything else and watched as they drove through the city until they came into a more urban area. The smell of thick salt grew and he took a sip of his beer until they came to a stop by the curve. They were a block from the beach and they got out and walked toward it. Evan carried one of the cases with Lily, and they walked behind the others.

“Are they supposed to take alcohol onto the beach at this time?” he asked.

“No,” she answered, “we’re hiding it with our blankets and bags.”

They stopped away from several people who were already at the beach. And Evan sat on the crisp sand with his half empty beer. He watched the others work at spreading their towels, and sometimes he noticed joggers on the pathways.

It was an ordinary morning, and he looked toward a road where he knew that was where he would go if he was heading home. He was close to his apartment. He made no move to get up but take another sip of the beer. Lily and few of the other women poured their hard liquor into water bottles, and some of the guys were lighting up their rolled up cigarette’s, including the drugs that were bunched up inside the white paper.

None of them noticed him taking a twenty from one of their bags, and getting up, leaving his beer pushed slightly into the pale sand. He didn’t look back as he sauntered along the sidewalk where it was filling up with people. He stopped at a hotdog stand and bought himself a hot dog covered in ketchup and relish. He kept walking until he sat on a bench by himself under a tall tree that blocked out the sun, he ate and filled up the pain in his stomach. Spending most of his time listening to the cluster of people gathering along the boardwalk. Their voices clashing together in laughter, warmth, and crunching irritation. He didn’t look whenever someone laughed too hard, or another swore between gritted teeth.

No one was ever happy, even if it were the morning, including himself.

Evan rubbed at his burning eyes, he hadn’t slept since passing out from taking the painkillers Moo gave him the other night. He wouldn’t even call that a night’s rest when it only lasted an hour or so. He knew he should’ve slept in the van, but he was too paranoid. What if they took his gun? Drugged him while he slept? Left him alone as a joke?

He couldn’t risk it.

And now, he had to find a place to crash. Maybe under a tree somewhere, pretend he was wasted, the alcohol on his breath made it believable.

Evan’s heart raced when he felt someone watching him. He glanced around and stopped when he noticed a man standing on the sidewalk several paces away from him. Under the shade, they wore a hood that covered their face, their hands tucked in their black sweater. And then they started to move towards him.

Evan got up and began walking away, he moved faster until he started to sprint along the boardwalk. Pushing people out of his way until he slipped into an alley. He continued running, his chest tightening, he turned down another alley and knelt beside a metal rusted garbage bin. His mouth gone dry, and he couldn’t inhale a breath.

They’re coming, coming, coming, they’re coming, they’re coming.

Run. Run. Run. Run.

They’re coming.

Hide. Hide. Hide. Hide.

They’re coming for you.

They’re coming for you.

Evan gasped, sucking in air as much as he could, he pressed his back against the hard wall. His vision was going in and out and as it began to blur, someone stepped before him, but he didn’t know who it was, and he succumbed behind the dark wall of unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

His eyes were heavy when he tried opening them. The blinding sun didn’t help with that, and he raised his hand to cover his eyes, even though his hand was too heavy. He took a deep breath and his hand slipped down his face to his side. His knuckles knocked against the ground he was sitting on.

“You’re awake.”

Evan blinked a few times, the voice low and gruff. Unrecognizable. He never heard it before, unless it was a voice somewhere deep inside his head that it was finally coming to the surface. He turned his body, sharp pain shot up his back and ached on his hips from the odd position he was lying in.

He looked at an old man sitting against the wall. His hair was stringy and white over his tan skin, the skin under his eyes were puffy from either a lack of sleep or age. He wore clothes with holes and rips, and held a piece of cardboard in his hand with words written in the center in large print.

They were in the shade of an alley, against a garbage that stunk of rotten cabbage, and sweet ripe apples, including wet dirt and something else he wasn’t sure of.

Vanoss licked his chapped lips and pushed himself up against the wall. Groaning, he glanced around and recalled the figure that was following him earlier. He was hiding but it was futile. Sooner or later, they will find him.

“How long was I sleeping?” he asked the man.

The man stared at him, peculiar, and said, “Maybe four hours. You were screaming for some time, and then you passed out.”

Evan nodded slowly. It’s exactly what he remembered before passing out. The fear had caused him to black out before he could see what the person was going to do to him. Now that he thought about it, he wasn’t sure if they even existed. He had seen it before, flickers of them, but never this tangible.

“You should go home,” the old man suggested.

Evan gave the man a weak smile before struggling to stand up. “I don’t have a home,” he answered.

And as he walked away, he heard the man say, “Me too.”

He spent awhile walking around. Hoping he wasn’t going to sink into his own mind again. Wondering if any of what he experienced in the last several hours even happened. If Delirious showed up at all. Was he at the base with his friends? Or did he lose himself at his apartment and wondered around in an episode. This was the longest episode he experienced having. Before leaving his psychiatrist office for the last time, he didn’t want to take drugs anymore, thinking he was better. He was better. He was better. He had control over it. Over himself and his mind and his emotions. He was in control.

Evan stopped by the curve of the sidewalk under a tree, the shade covering him from the sun. And his hands shook, and there was dried blood where small cuts had been clotted. Wounds that weren’t deep, easily healed over several minutes or an hour. Except that wasn’t what he was focused on, but the pain and fear that had brought upon those wounds. His heart racing when bullets flew past him, when he met a girl in a car and she passed him a beer, the burning sun on a beach filled with people.

I’m not in control.

Everything that happened, happened.

He dropped his hands to his sides and sucked in a breath.

Evan jogged down the street toward a 711 and found the payphone. He glanced around, but the people who walked by, and entered the stores, were normal people. He turned back and dialed the service worker’s number. Waiting for an answer, her voice entered his ear in an added relief.

“Hello, this is Anna, and I am your Independent Service Wo—”

“Alias: Vanoss,” Evan whispered into the receiver, a twinge of pain made him close his eyes, and he took a deep breath.

Anna stayed quiet for a moment before clearing her throat. “Identification number.”

“I can’t remember.”

“I work for people that don’t assess this as a response.” Silence. “Identification number.”

Evan closed his eyes. “Four, eight, zero, one, seven four.” He heard the clicking of a keyboard on the other side.

“Would you like to reset your identification number?”

“Would it matter?” he asked her.

“No,” Anna answered dryly. “Who do want to get into contact with, Vanoss?”

Delirious. Happy, stupid, Delirious, who showed up in his life and pulled him away from the normalcy that Evan was hoping would save his life. Now he didn’t even know if this was right, or if he was wandering around out of his fucking mind.

“H2ODelirious,” Evan whispered into the receiver.

“Hang up the phone. Wait fifteen minutes, if the phone does not ring, leave the area for your safety.”

“Thank you, Anna,” Evan said.

“You’re welcome, Evan.”

Evan placed the phone on the receiver and leaned against the phone booth. Waiting for the phone to ring. And while he waited, he shivered from the warm breeze against his body. It was usually hot in the city, but he couldn’t feel it. He concentrated on the noise and whatever memories he could dredge up, but he flinched when the phone rang. He picked it up and placed the phone to his ear.

“Vanoss?”

“Hey,” he whispered, feeling a small bit of relief at the sound of Delirious’s voice.

“Where are you? Why did you hang up on me?”

Evan shook his head. “I spoke with Lui.”

“What?”

“I spoke with Lui,” Evan repeated.

“How? Evan, how the fuck did you get into contact with him? We had no luck, and now you’ve suddenly—”

Evan couldn’t hear him, but Lui’s voice inside his head. Telling him not to trust Delirious. They’re liars. They’re lying to him.

Licking his bottom lip, he let out a sigh, “What do you know about the mission?”

“What?”

Evan straightened, he felt a strain inside of him and it was getting close to snapping. “The mission, Delirious, the fucking mission none of you are telling me about. I want to know what it is.”

“Evan, we’re coming to get you. Okay. Stay where you are.”

Gritting his teeth, he had the urge to slam the phone against the receiver and rip the cord out. “Tell me, Delirious, just fucking tell me what you know.”

Delirious was patient as he said, “We’re coming to get you, Evan. Stay where you are. I’ll explain everything when we pick you up.”

Evan shook his head, and his chest began to tighten. He could barely breathe, and before he knew it, Delirious’s voice became distant as he sprinted away from the phonebooth. He ran down the street, trying to get far away as he possibly could. He couldn’t trust the phone. He should not have been on it for so long. It was wrong. He knew it was wrong. He had to get away. Somewhere safe.

He couldn’t trust anyone, and he didn’t know what to do. It was all a spiraling confusion digging into his skull.

He walked and walked until finally his feet came to a stop and he looked upon the white three-story building where he lived for three years. His so-called safety where he could hole up and pretend he was normal.

Evan walked to the front door and up the stairs that led to the floor he lived on. The first thing he noticed was the yellow tape covering the door. The second was how quiet it was. It was the middle of the day, but usually there was always some kind of noise. Maybe the disturbance freaked the neighbors out. He wouldn’t be surprised if some moved out.

He tore the yellow tape, tested the knob, and shoved against the door a few times before it came loose and he walked in.

His apartment was more like a prison, but somewhere he could think and adjust with. Once he was surrounded by his friends, and the loneliness was difficult to deal with for several months until he accepted that he was alone.

Evan sat down on the cold couch leaned against the wall and reached to his bookshelf beside it, and picked up a small orange bottle with the label scraped off the side. He was surprised the police didn’t take anything for evidence, but Evan was careful about the things he registered and bought. He might’ve slipped up at some point, but it would take them awhile to get through all their paperwork. He took off the cap and placed several pills into his hand. He got up and opened the fridge. They cut off the power, which didn’t surprise him, and uncapped a water bottle.

Downing the pills and water, he sat back down on the couch. Tape and white chalk in the form of the three bodies were on the floor of his apartment. The blood stains seeped into the wood, but they did their best. Probably come back in a few days to try again, then all of his furniture will be inspected, then taken out, and thrown away. Repainted by the owner, and rented out again for another desperate person to stay in this crappy apartment complex.

Evan got up and ambled into his bedroom. The bedding and drawers were picked through, and a bag sat in the corner of the room. He dug through it and pulled out a few article of clothes and changed out of the ones he was wearing.

Cleaners were a bit more...cleaner than this. But the police didn’t exactly buy into the underworld logic that Evan was too accustomed too. He dropped his old clothes into the bag and tied it back up. He washed his face with the water bottle in the bathroom sink, and drank the rest. Once he was finished, he stepped over the chalk and tape, and closed the door to the apartment.

He couldn’t stay long. Someone will notice him, and it’ll get messy from there. He strolled down the hallway, staring down at the floor, but before he could turn the corner.

“Evan?” He came to a quick stop. “The cops have been looking for you.” He turned around to look at a woman standing in the threshold of her door, she lived across from him and always kept to herself. Worry creased her brows and filled her brown eyes. “They think you’re a part of what happened, since it is your apartment where it happened.” She glanced at his door with the ripped yellow tape, an uneasy look flashed across her face when she looked back at Evan.

He shook his head. “Don’t tell anyone I was here.”

She nodded slowly, and said something he didn’t expect her to say, and it left a shiver down his spine. “You should leave soon.”

Chapter Text

He hadn’t realized until he shoved the woman against the door, the knob hitting the wall. His fingers digging into her shirt as her eyes widened, her entire body tensed, until came down on his shoulders to shove him off.

“Who are you?” he asked, harsh and tense. His entire body grew cold, but even with his beating heart, he couldn’t find the sense to calm himself. Not until a man appeared and shoved Evan off the woman. He stumbled back and hit the wall.

“Who the fuck are you?” her boyfriend asked, his brows knitted together and his eyes were heavy with rage.

Evan looked past him and at the woman who stared in shock at him, her hands trembling over her crumpled shirt. And he was sick, he knew he was sick in the head for what he did, and without answering the man. He stumbled away from them, down the steps until he found the front door to the apartment building.

The tension prickled along his skin that drove nails in his lungs. He wiped away frustrated tears and pushed himself onward down the street under the burning sun. He stumbled against a wall as if he was shoved against it. Clinging to the hot flat surface, he skulked into an alley as far as he could go and fell to his knees, his hands scraped on the asphalt as fresh pain spiked through his body.

“This can’t be happening. Don’t let this happen again. Not again. Not so close together. Is this real? Is this real? I can’t tell if any of this is real?” Evan muttered, squeezing his eyes closed. He couldn’t feel anything besides haze in his head as if he was walking through a fog and any direction made no sense to the destination he hoped to come upon. Except even that was a mystery, and fear soon arrived in heavy waves over his body. Hands lingering on his back, along his neck, on his hands, in his hair. Whispering to him how he wouldn’t be able to find his way out again. He was trapped and sleeping. Never to awaken. Never to see any of his friends again. He was useless.

“Hey.”

Evan let out an agonized moan from his lips, tilting his head to the side as his fingers curled, dragging along the concrete.

“Hey, uh, are you okay?” A shadow passed over Evan’s face and a man was knelt beside him. Raggedly brown hair, tan skin with a faint sunburn upon his cheeks, his hazel eyes stared down at Evan with concern. “You’ve been crying for sometime, and you look like you’re going to pass out.”

Evan stared blankly at the man, unsure of what to make of him. “Are you real?” he asked him.

The man chuckled. “Yeah, pretty sure. Come on, I’ll get you something to drink.” He took Evan’s arm, and helped him to his feet. Evan staggered, but the man managed to walk him toward a staircase in the shade between two houses. The man sat him down as he went upstairs and came back seconds after and passed Evan a grape flavored juice box. “My Rosie likes these kinds,” the man said, smiling as he takes a sip of his own juice box.

Evan stared at the cold juice box in his hand until the man ripped the plastic off the straw and stuck it into the hole on top, giving it back to Evan.

Letting out a trembled moan, he slowly drank the juice box and focused on the cold and the flavor.

“Are you okay now?” the man asked, “do you need a hospital?”

Shaking his head, Evan says, “No thanks. It’s been a rough forty-two hours.” His mind was scattered with thoughts he was trying his hardest to sort through. All of it a trembling mess that wanted to scream and fight, except he was too exhausted to consider it.

He stayed sitting on the steps until the man offered him a ten dollar bill. “Sorry. I don’t know what to give to someone who’s having a mental breakdown, but if you need to buy yourself a drink from a convenient store, this should help.”

Evan stared at it, and hesitantly took the money. “Thanks. I think.”

“No problem. I feel bad that you don’t want to go to a hospital, but you’re old enough to make your own decisions.”

Evan smiled. “You did enough, more than most.”

The man smiled back, and Evan said his farewells before trudging down the street. He tucked the money into his sweater pocket, and had no idea where he was meant to go. He could find a payphone, but there was still that underlying fear that he would hear something else, something wrong in Delirious’s voice.

When he made it onto the next street, thinking he could go to the beach, his ear twitched at the loud noise of a screech behind him. And when he turned, a black van came to a skidding stop and before he could run. The door opened, and he was dragged inside, he groaned when a pin prick of something went into his neck and his body came to a halt as he fell unconscious.

When Evan came too, he winced at the bright light above him, and the mirror across from him. His arms and legs were bound by zip ties. What made this a bit more inconvenient is the drug in his system. He stared in the mirror, but not at his own reflection, but the reflection of the man in the hood. It stood in the corner where the light barely touched it, and Evan knew without knowing it had a face that it was smiling at him.

Evan flinched when the door to the room opened. Two men walked in, both wearing black and blue tactical armour, except their heads weren’t covered and shown their blond and brown hair. They were taller and more muscular than he was with pale and tan skin. The blonde who was standing in front of him had a gun strapped in his holster at his hip.

“Vanoss, right?” the man asked, studying him with an air of disinterest.

Evan stared right back, his lips parted, but he didn’t bother speaking any words. He could barely focus on the pain around his wrists and ankles, nor the figure in the corner that disappeared when the two men appeared.

“Hey,” the man said, prodding Evan in the forehead with his finger. “What the fuck?” he straightened and looked to his companion, “How much stuff did you give him? He’s acting like a bitch.”

The other man standing against the wall shrugged. “Two.”

“What the fuck? We need him to talk, you fucking idiot, not to sit on cloud nine. This is why I don’t give you guys these type of responsibilities. Always managing to fuck it up somehow.” He took out his gun and placed it in front of Evan’s face. “Where are your other friends?”

Evan blinked in the barrel of the gun. “I...don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Your friends,” the man said, hitting Evan in the side of the head, which earned him a groan, “your fucking friends. The ones you contacted several hours ago at a payphone, you talked to them.”

His mind buzzed from the new pain throbbing at his temple, but the images of Delirious were dragged to the forefront of his mind.

“We’re coming to get you, Evan. Stay where you are. I’ll explain everything when we pick you up.”

That wasn’t going to happen any time soon. Not when he was captured by these unknown people. If only Delirious told him what they were doing. If only the truth was easy to say instead of them hiding behind lies. They owed him the truth for bringing him back into this bullshit. Lying did nothing but stretch the inevitable, and now that he was in this particular situation none of them thought he’d end up in. It was too late. He was drugged, hallucinating, and out of his fucking mind. What else could he do when reality was too blurry for him to distinguish.

“I’m going to kill you,” the man said. He didn’t blink when he declared this, and Evan knew how serious he was. Not like it mattered, they didn’t know each other, and they stood on either side of a threshold where loyalty kept them chained to their individual circumstances.

Evan would’ve said the same thing if the man was tied to a chair. He would’ve gloated, smiled, and hammered in the point that his life meant nothing. So why would it matter if Evan’s meant less to a stranger.

He thought of the old man on the street who woke him up and didn’t run when he was in a psychotic break. Nor the man in the alley who gave him the juice box. Not even Delirious who kept him safe until he couldn’t anymore.

Why does he matter?

Evan chuckled, he lifted his head and smiled at the man. His entire mind was dazed, and his body sluggish, and everything he did before and now felt worthless.

“Kill me,” he told the man, the words slurring, “end my suffering, I’ve seen a lot of shit in the past several years, and dealt with it all the same. Maybe it’ll all escape me through a bullet hole in my head.”

The man narrowed a glare at him. “Fuck sakes.” He hit Evan again and left the room with his companion, leaving Evan alone with his rapid suicidal thoughts thrumming in his body.

His eyes slid shut, and he welcomed the slow pain that pushed through the numbing, and fell unconscious.

What woke him again was a hushed voice in the echoed room. Blinking his eyes opened, he stared at an old split lip and purplish bruises upon dark skin. His clothes were rumpled, torn with faded blood. Basically. It was his friend, tied to a chair like he was, glaring at him from the other side of the room.

“I...don’t know if you’re real,” Evan said, blinking a few more times to ease the blurriness from his eyes.

“Shit,” Marcel swore, “those idiots. We told them not to bring you in. Lui knew this was going to happen.”

Evan shook his head slowly. “Lui said not to trust them.”

Marcel glanced toward the closed door. “No. Lui couldn’t have told you, he’s been locked in a room and hasn’t been let out for sometime.”

Evan groaned when he noticed the man in the hood standing near Marcel. His entire figure was wavering like a mist. “I don’t know where I am.”

“I need you to listen to me, Evan,” Marcel stressed, trying to lean forward. “This is real, I’m real. Whatever you’re seeing or hearing is not real. I need you to focus, can you do that?”

“I don’t know what’s going on.”

Marcel nods, panic setting into his features. “I know. Just focus on what I’m going to tell you. Right now, you’re going to have to try and escape.”

Evan let out a short shaky breath. He felt it. The same wavering feeling that made him feel as if he were floating. “Why can’t you?” he asked. He couldn’t do what Marcel wanted him to do. Not when he felt the eyes all over him. Watching him from the corners of the walls, and the mirror resting behind Marcel. He couldn’t do it. His heart was going to burst. He was too shaky, too sick. He needed sleep, somewhere safe to close his eyes.

“I can’t,” Marcel said, shaking his head. “They...They put a tracker in the back of my neck. Including the others. I don’t think they did it to you yet.”

Evan frowned, looking at Marcel. “They put a tracker in the back of your neck?”

Marcel scowls. “Fucking Delirious. He should’ve known you were too unstable to come back into the field.” He took a deep breath and smoothed out his irritation. “Okay, Evan, right now, you’re our only hope. You’re going to have to escape the zip ties, and fucking run from this place. Okay. I need you to run. Just run.”

“What about you?”

“Who the fuck cares about me! All that matters is you get to a computer, hack into these fuckers servers, and you find a way to locate our trackers.” Marcel glared at the closed door. “These assholes think they’re fucking smart.”

“They have the rest of you…” Evan pointed out.

“Yeah, well, we’re not as smart either.” He shrugged, eyes heavy with apprehension. “All that matters is you find the trackers. Not all of us are here. We’ve been separated, and I’m not sure...if the rest are even alive.” Evan caught the exhaustion of whatever Marcel had gone through, and the worry for the others. “I can’t leave...they’ll follow me to the others. I have to stay behind, but you can find them. You can save us.”

It all seemed strange. A dream. Wavering in and out like a fog while trying to clutch something solid. For several hours it’s been like that, and now the words spread through him, and Evan doesn’t know how to take it all in.

“Can I…” he says, closing his eyes, “wake up now?”

“Evan,” Marcel snaps, “these people are called Serpent. Remember the crappy name, Serpe—”

The door to the room opened and Marcel sat back, gritting his teeth. The same blond stepped inside, glaring between them.

“You really thought we’re fucking stupid, are you?” he asked, slapping Marcel.

Except Marcel grins, spitting out the blood from his mouth. “I mean, you’re not doing yourself any favors, asshole.”

“Your friend here is a little fucked up,” the man says, hitting Marcel again, “even without the drug, he’s still going on about some fucked up bullshit. I think maybe he would’ve been better if he was dead.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Marcel said, his voice growing. “You’re nothing but a bitch!”

They’re going to die. All of them.

Evan squeezes his eyes closed, his heart racing at the pained groans coming from Marcel.

This can’t be a dream. Even if it is, I can’t let this go on.

Evan rocked his body with the chair and shoved himself forward. Pushing the man into Marcel who opened his mouth and clenched down on the front of his vest. With the added weight, the three of them hit the ground on the side.

Evan fought the zip ties at his wrists but managed to get his leg free by bringing it down over the leg of the chair. Marcel seemed to have down the same, still biting down on the man’s jacket. It didn’t take long for him to shove Marcel off, but with a bit of effort, Vanoss used his weight to keep him down while Marcel fell on his side, and reached for the gun. The first bullet skimmed past the man and hit the mirror, the next went into the man’s head, blood spraying onto the wall.

“I still think this is a dream,” Evan gasped, falling to the side while watching Marcel fumble with the zip ties.

“Yeah, well,” Marcel muttered, getting to his knees with a knife that he cut the zip tie with. “I find that when you’re around, we have all the luck.”

“I’ve been out of your guys lives for three years,” Evan said as he watched Marcel crawl towards him and cut the zip ties.

“And look what happened,” Marcel said, giving him a small smile. “Find us, Evan.” He gave him the knife and the gun, and Evan tried to ignore the sinking feeling of what came after when the door opened, and he shot the first man in the head. It was the same man who was the companion to the other.

They must’ve thought they were clever enough to capture Evan, thinking that maybe he wouldn’t be able to escape.

For once his mind came in handy when they decided not to give him any of the drugs.

He stumbled from the room, fear racing in his veins, as he kept close to the walls and listened to the footsteps of several coming his way. He watched them rush by before making his way out of the building. He shot at the cameras, and killed several until the bullets ran out. Hitting another with the gun, and hiding behind a truck in the parking lot to dodge the bullets.

It was all a numbing sound in his ears as he ran from the building, down the street as the sun was close to setting. He couldn’t think of anything else until he found himself in front of a house where he reached for a key on top of the doorpost and unlocked the door. He stumbled inside and slammed the door shut. It was dark, cold, and damp, but he found the couch and he rocked back and forth. His breath shaky, mind entirely numb, and his fingers prickling.

He didn’t know how long he sat there until his ear twitched at a sudden sound coming from the back door. It closed softly and the steps were careful on the floorboards as they drew close.

“Vanoss?” Delirious whispered.

Evan’s eyes fluttered closed, and he let his mind drift apart from all that happened.

Chapter Text

“Hey. Are you okay? Why are you covered in blood?”

Evan blinked, eyes burning, mind somewhere else, a place he locked away. He blinked again, this time longer before slowly opening his eyes. All he heard was silence, and sometimes when he tried thinking more thoroughly, he heard someone yelling. He knew he should be doing something, but he was tired, mind numb, body exhausted.

Not like exhaustion ever stopped you.

Evan flinched.

“Hey, Vanoss.” The voice was also far away, but he was knelt in front of him, staring, brows pushed together, concern obviously evident on his face. “Are you okay?”

A pain blossomed in his chest and he lulled his head to the side, closing his eyes again. Before he could lie down on the couch, his sweater was being undone and pulled off his shoulders, and the next was his shirt.

“You have blood on you,” he spoke in a whisper, pulling the shirt over Evan’s head and leaving him aching in the cold dark living room. He shivered as it snaked up his body, along his spine and around his bare arms. “Shit. Vanoss, you’re covered in bruises. Where the fuck did you go?”

Evan’s breath came out heavily, and his head started to throb. Except he was once more far away, in a place, his apartment where the two bodies used to be. Silence. That’s all he wanted. Except the neighbors were loud, yelling, banging against the walls, kids crying and laughing. All of it a sound flaring inside his head, but it was followed by something more. Clipping of gunfire and windows shattering. He broke two cups when his hand couldn’t stop shaking, and he had a hard time watching TV during the late nights when he suffered from insomnia.

“I’ll help you clean up,” he said, pulling Evan to his feet and dragging him to the hallway that led into the bathroom. He let Evan stand against the wall, the yellow dim light was already turned on, and the bath was running. Steam collected in the air once the water was turned off. He came back to him, standing so close, smiling as he pushed back a strand of Evan’s hair from his face. “Come on, let’s get you undressed.”

He was unsure of where it all ended and where it all began. Flashing lights and popping noises, making him flinch and fingers twitch in his lap. Breath shaking, nausea overwhelming, a sickening taste as he threw up in the toilet. He hated it, and he’d rather taste the awful chalk of medication than his own inner revulsion.

Save me. He hoped, he wished, he demanded from the little pills he swallowed, followed by a glass of water. Slamming his hands on the counter, blinking, breathing, hoping.

Fragile. He told himself when he loathed his own thoughts, his voice, his mind teetering on the edge. Sometimes he would kneel before his bag where his gun and ammo were. He berated himself to throw them away, discard his past. Except he couldn’t even do that. Fear and paranoia were poisons that seeped and contaminated his own blood.

The water was hot, making him suck in a breath and he almost slipped. A hand grasped his arm, steadying him before he lowered himself into the water. He slouched, pulling his legs to his chest.

“I got a sponge,” he spoke, amused of himself. “If it hurts, let me know.”

He tucked it away, the pain and sounds that followed him. Except they always seemed to find a way out. He knew the voice well, the one that smiled and laughed, that held him in an embrace and whispered to him. He didn’t hate him, he couldn’t hate him. It felt more like an unbearable reminder, but he searched for a scrap of memory he tried to rip apart late at night. Hold it close within his hands, pressed to his chest, and dreamed without the nightmares cutting deep into his fantasies.

Evan tensed when the first drops of water touched the wounds, when the pressure left his mouth parched, and he exhaled a whimper.

“I’m sorry,” he spoke, pulling away. “I want to wash out the blood, but I’ll try to avoid the bruises. Your wounds aren’t deep enough to stitch, and the one you got earlier is still maintained during whatever activity you were doing. Did you get into a fight with someone?”

He didn’t know when his chest hollowed out, and his soul was no longer residing within him. He didn’t know when he flinched too much at the sounds of gunfire, at his friends laughing with blood staining their hands. It was all a wreckage, pulling close and dragging away. Another game, another choice that he decided to make.

He was silent for so long until it got too much. Until he walked away in his sleep, and lashed out at his friends. When he breathed, his body hummed with pain, and his eyes were dry from crying. Late at night, in the dark, he would stay awake with those monsters.

He couldn’t stay anymore.

“Come on,” he said, taking his arm and pulling him to his feet. “I managed to get the blood out of your hair, and made sure your wounds didn’t bleed too much. I’ll stick a patch on a few and check your stitches again.” He helped him out of the bath, the room was still warm from the water. A towel was draped over his head as his dark hair was dried. “Are you going to tell me anything?”

The end of the gun slammed into his face and he groaned when he hit the pavement. Breathing heavily as he felt something loose in his mouth before he spit it out. A tooth, another gone from his left side, his jaw ached and his head swam with confusion. He was turned onto his back, a fist slamming down against his face, the side of his eye burst with pain.

He fumbled, pulled up his knee that staggered the man as Evan's fingers tightened around his collar as he used his weight to roll him onto the side. This time he was hovering above the man with the angry face, twisted up into rage and panic. It ended so quickly, he recalled the sounds entering his head like an echo. He found the gun and fired into the man’s face. The bullet sunk between the brows and the body stuttered before going limp.

He was shaking so badly, he couldn’t let go of the gun until one of his friends wrenched it from his fingers. Then he was pulled to his feet, voices surrounding him until he had to smile, to fake it, but not to feel it. He couldn’t feel it, not for a long time.

“I’m going to check out the safe house and see if we’re still safe,” he spoke, walking away from him as he stood in the hallway, clothed in a simple black shirt and jeans.

I need you to run. Just run.

Evan groaned, hands coming up and covered his face as everything came back to him. He broke down, he went numb, he couldn’t think, and he might’ve lost his chance to find them.

The silence faded once Delirious returned, he was careful as he approached Evan who dropped his arms to his sides. He looked conflicted, and a little guilty.

“I wanted to tell you this, and I’m not sure why I didn’t say it earlier,” he met Evan’s eyes, frowning, “I’m sorry I brought you into this. I should’ve known that three years wouldn’t have solved anything. That you were still...recovery. And you’ll probably be for a long time. No one can forget trauma so easily. At least not how it is when it’s right in your face constantly.” He stepped closer, wringing his fingers. “I might’ve made it worse...bringing you back into the field. I’m sorry.”

Evan stared at him, and it didn’t help that Delirious was still nervous. He wanted to say something, but he didn’t look like he was finished.

“There’s something else I wanted to tell you, I’m not sure if you can tell, and I haven’t really asked about your...medication. Earlier, when we were on the phone and you hung up, I wanted to tell you that no one else was on the phone with us. It was just you and me talking.” Delirious’s jaw clenched, he was afraid, and had good reason to be. “I knew something was wrong when you said Lui’s name. After that, I had to find you, I needed to find you.”

Evan opened his mouth, but no words left him. Delirious was still nervous, breathing heavily. He took Evan’s arm and brought him into the next room where a bed lay on a frame. A simple thin blanket and pillows covered it. Delirious sat Evan down, and relaxed his shoulders.

“To be honest, I didn’t think you’d be at one of the safe houses. I wasn’t sure if you remembered where they were, but I had to check.” He gave Evan a small smile, “I’m glad you’re here. I’m happy I found you. You’re tired, though. I can tell. You can sleep, I won’t go anywhere.”

Evan stared at him, but he lied down on the bed. The weight on his left side was occupied by Delirious. And he closed his eyes, trying his hardest to grasp a bit warmth he could find, something that wasn’t the harsh sounds and lights.

When he did eventually wake up, Evan sat up with a start, sucking in a breath. His first thought was that he was unsure if Delirious was a hallucination. He wasn’t lying beside him, but the blanket itself was moved around, and then he heard a creak coming from the hall.

Delirious appeared in the doorway with a water bottle and his bag. His brows rose in surprise. “It’s the afternoon, one-thirty,” he said, and Evan mentally thanked him for the time.

There was something he wanted to say, to clear up before he forgot it. His mind may be groggy from sleep, but the words came through, easy enough he tasted them on his tongue. Maybe he could find some kind of closure in telling Delirious this.

Evan cleared his throat. “I tried, you know. Therapists, drugs, alcohol, sex,” he noted Delirious glancing away, “finding new friends, or even any type of addiction that could stop me from thinking about it, from dreaming about it, and seeing it. I wanted something to make me forget about the short time I had with blood and death.” He shrugged, playing with the hem of his shirt. “I still deal with insomnia, eyes always burning from a lack of sleep, staring at the ceiling, or even the walls until the sun rises. If not insomnia, it would be nightmares and they’d wake me up with a loud noise, gasping, flailing to hold something that wasn’t a gun, or a dead body.” He smiled, sheepish, “I gained agoraphobia, but I managed it by working at a distribution center, but from the days I missed. I’m probably fired.”

Delirious chuckled. “Sorry about that.” He leaned against the drawer, crossing his arms. “Maybe one day we can leave this behind, instead of constantly feeling disconnected from the world, we can feel content.”

Evan wasn’t so sure about that, but it was a good enough thought for the future. With the truth out, and everything not holding him back. He finally told Delirious what had happened, where he’d been, and who helped him escape.

Chapter Text

Evan twisted the faucet, and splashed cold water on his heated face. His ear twitched at the sound of Delirious dialing a number on his burner phone. They decided to call the rest of their friends after Evan explained everything to Delirious. He splashed more water on his face, letting the shock wake him up. He twisted the faucet off and gripped the sides of the sink, looking into the mirror and the bags under his eyes.

I can’t stop the shaking. He lets out trembled breath, pressing his forehead against the glass and closing his eyes. He told him everything. That was good, he knew it was good, but it still bothered him.

“Vanoss,” Delirious poked his head into the bathroom once Evan grabbed the towel to dry his hands, “I told them where we are and they should be here in a couple of minutes.”

Evan nodded, placing the towel back on the hook. There was a numbing pain from the stitches Delirious looked over, including the bulletwound in his shoulder, and the bruises puffing out on his face. Whenever he thought about that room, his heart raced a bit too quick.

“It’s okay,” Delirious said, “everything is going to be okay.”

“Yeah,” Evan said. He walked past Delirious and sat down in the bedroom, twisting the cap off the water bottle. He took a few more painkillers, and downed the water. He wasn’t completely sated, a little stuffed with cotton than anything else.

“I’ll try not to let anything happen to you,” Delirious said, watching him from the dresser. He was serious, and it made Evan smile. But how serious can he be? Did all these years pulling a trigger truly fucked him over? He used to be happy, a little too happy, and Evan laughed along with him, knowing nothing could ever harm them. And now look what happened, they’re digging their own graves with a bunch of their friends. Maybe he was never fit for this type of job, but he found his skills, and even how disjointed he and they were, they managed to find a way to fit with all their jagged edges.

Evan turned toward Delirious, grinning, “And yet I’m the one always saving you.”

Delirious smiled back, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, whatever, asshole.”

They both laughed, and Delirious went to grab something to eat while Evan packed what he had inside the safehouse into a bag. He checked his guns, the ammo, and pressed his hands against the walls but there wasn’t a secret compartment. Not this time. Damn, Lui.

“I need a computer,” Evan told Delirious as they both stood in the kitchen, eating a sandwich that Delirious quickly made. It tasted better than anything Evan had eaten in awhile. He wasn’t sure if he ate at all since his apartment was ambushed.

“Let’s hope those idiots bring one,” Delirious said, munching on his sandwich.

Evan took a sip of his water and ate the rest of his sandwich. Once they were finished, Evan had zipped up his bag and dropped it on the couch when there was a knock at the front door.

“You want any fucking cookies?” Wildcat called from the otherside.

Delirious, holding a gun, rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you better have some or I ain’t letting you in.”

“Fuck off,” Wildcat slammed his fist against the door, “open up!”

SMii7y, Kryoz, Moo were laughing behind Wildcat when Delirious unlocked and opened the door. They all piled into the small living room, glancing at Evan, while Wildcat muttered curses under his breath that were directed at Delirious.

“You never do get far, always running,” SMii7y says to Evan in a sardonic tone meant to be friendly, but Evan hears the condescension and ignores it.

“Shut it,” Delirious said, glaring at SMii7y who shrugs and stands beside Kryoz.

“SMii7y’s right,” Kryoz said.

Evan’s chest tightens, and maybe there is a bit of an embarrassment that swells. It happened so often and there was no point in defending him and the episodes.

Evan clears his throat and said, “We’re not hear to speak about me. I need a laptop, did any of you bring one?”

Moo stepped past a scowling Wildcat and pulled one from a navy blue bag he was holding against his hip. It was small and light with a smooth surface, easy to move around without weighing him down. “Figured you needed one when Delirious called.”

“This will do,” he said, heart racing as he took the laptop and stepped past Kryoz and SMii7y where he placed the laptop on the table, pulling the chair out and plopping down.

“How long will this take?” SMii7y asked, raking a hand through his short brown hair.

“I don’t know,” Evan answered, turning the laptop on. “I’m not sure how I’m going to find them or where they’d be, but Basically bought us time, gave us direction.” He looked up at his friends and smiled, “I’ll find a way.”

While they wait, Evan looks for Serpent, any defining aspect of what they are and who. He mostly looks up on several illegal sites, some underground organizations and militia’s that go by that name, or anything similar. Everyone had a trail, even how small, and these people rose high and separated a group of agents that were good at their job, better than most. They made a name and Serpent strategized a way to seal their fate, but why? There was a reason, not a show of force, and certainly not to kill any of them. Torture was inevitable, the bruises and split lip on Evan’s face thrum with pain, and he takes another pill and downs it with a Pepsi Kryoz brought over.

Wildcat hovers, arms crossed with a scrutinizing gaze over his shoulder. “I’m making sure you don’t delete anything this time,” he had said when Evan told him to back up.

Evan reiterated that he hadn’t deleted anything the last time he hacked into the camera systems. Wildcat ignored him and stayed where he was, which Evan slowly began to accept.

“I fucking hate that name,” Delirious comments from across the table.

“No one cares, Delirious,” Wildcat said.

He shrugged. “I’m just saying.”

“Maybe they like Harry Potter,” Kryoz said from the living room where he and SMii7y were lounging on the couch, eating chips.

“Fuck Harry Potter,” Delirious muttered, pressing his head to the table.

Evan sighs, looking through several files when he hacked into a government site.

“You ever think about what you’re doing during episodes?” Wildcat asked, pressing his weight against the chair Evan is sitting on.

“No,” Evan said, tapping into more files. “Why should I?”

“I don’t know, maybe it’s because you have no idea what you’re doing half the time.”

“I don’t like thinking about that, if I do, then I can’t bare to trust myself with the way I am,” Evan said. He thought about it before, fixed on the idea that a part of him was trying to break free of his responsibilities. All those times running and crying and hitting his hands against the door. Always trying to run from the sounds of gunfire, and the taste of antiseptic and sweet needle like syrup in his mouth, or the chalky tablets forced down his throat when he struggled a bit too much. He didn’t like thinking about that.

Evan blinks when he types into another secure network and finds himself staring at a green snake looking thing in the left right corner of the page. The word Serpent is written in large text, but thin like in cursive.

“I found it,” he said, peering up at Delirious who smiled, getting up from his chair.

“Holy shit,” he said, leaning over Evan, tilting his head to the side, “those assholes might actually like Harry Potter.”

“Enough about Harry Potter,” Wildcat said.

Moo walks in the room with a bottle of juice, blinking a few times from a nap he took for the last two hours. “You found it?”

Evan nodded. “Yeah,” he looked back at the screen and went looking for the trackers, and to his surprise, he found them in several files that directed him to a map.

Delirious snorted, stepping back to lean against the counter.

Moo chuckled when he slipped by Delirious, “They’re labeled. What kind of amateur mistake is that?”

“They were difficult to find,” Evan comments.

“How did you find them?” Moo asked.

“FBI,” Evan shrugged. “I did not expect that, I was thinking of something a bit more...off grid.”

Wildcat hummed. “None of the trackers are even offline.”

Suspicious, Evan thought.

“So, they’re still alive?” Delirious asked.

“I guess so,” Evan said, unsure.

“I don’t believe it,” Wildcat said, pushing past Moo and Delirious. “I want to find them and then I’ll believe it.” He looked into the living room, “get in here you fucking idiots.”

“Gosh, why are you angry?” SMii7y asked, frowning as he and Kryoz joined them in the kitchen, both squinting their eyes at how bright the room was then the living room with its dark curtains covering the windows.

“We’ll go into teams,” Wildcat said, ignoring SMii7y’s question.

Delirious regards the map with the trackers that were blinking red all over the map. Some weren’t even in the city, which would become a problem soon.

“Vanoss and I will go after Basically,” he said.

“They probably moved him,” Kryoz said, crossing his arms.

“The coordinates on the map says Basically is in the warehouse district on the east side of the city,” Moo said, pressing his finger against the screen while Evan pulled it closer.

“Can you hack into Google maps or something?” SMii7y asked, squeezing past Delirious to look at the maps.

“I can hack into the surveillance database,” Evan offers, “it’ll allow us to see more clearly without using a map.” He clicked onto another tab and while he was doing that, he was also half listening to Wildcat forming the teams.

They were close, and once he got into the camera system that is wired to the police department, he pulled up a few windows of a cameras that were close to the warehouse. It was a bit larger, grey on the outsides with a blue stripe on the bottom part. Secluded area with a few trucks, and he can visibly see armed men walking around it. Some weren’t exactly trying to be subtle.

“Looks like they’re waiting for you,” Delirious said.

Evan clenched his teeth at the set of them. He counted eight on the outside and wondered how many were inside. “I’m hoping Marcel is in there and that it’s not some kind of bullshit trap.”

“They know what Marcel told you,” Wildcat said, “he’s good as dead.”

Evan scoffs, clicking off the tabs and deleting the traces. “Where’s that positive attitude you keep on supplying?”

“Fuck you, you should’ve known going after him was risky,” Wildcat snapped.

“I didn’t go after him,” Evan said, closing the laptop and passing it back to Moo, “it was a coincidence that they found me.”

“You’re practically wearing a sign, ‘I’m Vanoss, come kidnap me’, ” SMii7y said, faking a high pitched voice as he saunters back over to Kryoz.

“Maybe it was a good thing they caught me, cause Marcel risked his life to give me a chance to escape so we can find him and the others,” Evan said, walking by them and grabbing his bag from the couch, “I’m going after him.”

“Hey,” Delirious said, coming over to him, “calm down, we need to figure something out, a plan or something that will not fuck us over.”

“Hey, lovebirds,” Kryoz said, “mind doing that in the room.”

Evan scowled, what did he see in them? “Fuck you guys.” He headed for the door, ignoring Delirious, and when he walked out, his breath hitched at the sight of the shadow, but it’s more prominent now. And the dark sweater its wearing is turning blue, the same color as Delirious’s.

Chapter Text

He didn’t expect much, but a completely empty warehouse was not what he expected to find. To their unfortunate circumstance, the signals had fluctuated, and they needed a lead while Tyler figured out how to get the signals back up and running so they could find the others.

Moo decided to join them and was on the phone with Tyler, while Evan and Delirious walked around, looking through rooms to find any clue where Serpent disappeared too. There had to be something that could tell them where they were going, but it was too clean. Everything that once was there was now gone. A husk picked clean.

Evan walked by the room that he and Basically were tortured in. The room was already inspected by Delirious, and Evan didn’t want the flashes of memories flooding his mind. Not when he was on the precipice of a breakdown.

“Did you hallucinate it?” Moo asked once he got off the phone and Evan had wandered back outside where he stood in the empty driveway. Slight skid markings told them that they left in a rush, imprints layered the place. They used the warehouse for awhile, at least until now.

“No,” Evan said, shading his eyes from the sunlight. Since arriving, he was feeling sluggish, his arms and legs shook, and his stomach grumbled. The past few hours did not help with his confidence, and this was making things worse. He rubbed the side of his head, eyes closed as he recalled the contact of a fist hitting his jaw, the pressure there was evident, including the blue bruise. “We were here. Basically and I...they must’ve moved him once they realized I might come back.”

The possibility of that was strenuous if Basically hadn’t given him the information they needed. Now they could make easy work with locating him, but whatever base they decided to hide out in now that they discarded this one. He hoped they could find the others before Serpent decided to do something terrible with them as well. Whatever they did decide, it was weeks since this began, and yet Evan felt he was far from the truth, he looked at his friends and knew how the string pulled between them. They all thought they were careful, but he knew them too well.

They were hiding something, but what?

Moo’s phone went off and he answered it, humming as he nodded before his eyes widened, turning his head toward Evan. “Marcel’s signal was brought back online, he’s going toward the highway.”

“What? Why?” Delirious asked, joining them outside.

“Obviously they have another place for him, let’s grab him before they do anything too rash,” Evan said, already heading for the vehicle. He took the back seat, checking his gun, while Moo got into the driver’s, and Delirious in the passenger. They were out of the old base and heading down the road as quick as they could. Moo was usually a careful driver, and he still was, but this time he was going a bit faster down the back streets.

Delirious held Moo’s phone and pressed the speaker button. Tyler’s aggravated voice entered the car, a lot louder, and sounding stressed. “I told SMii7y and Kryoz to go after Fourzer0seven. And we might have a problem.”

Evan raised his head, “What now?”

“The trackers are going out,” Tyler said, panting into the phone, they heard a scuffle and the sound of keys clinking together.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Delirious asked, frowning.

“They all could be dead,” Tyler suggested blankly.

No. That couldn’t be right. Why kill them now? There had to be a reason, or maybe they were growing desperate. They were waiting something out, maybe an answer from one of the captured. He was guessing it had to go back to Lui, or maybe they were hoping to get the rest of them. They just didn’t expect Evan to join.

“Or, they’re hiding them,” Evan said, checking his second gun, “they know we have a tracker. Shit. We might be running out of time.”

“And it’s a good thing we should grab them before that happens,” Tyler said, a low humming came from the phone, followed by a screech.

He had to figure out how to save his friends before dusk. He knew by then something might happen, and he didn’t want it too. Not until he knew what they were hiding and what they wanted. He couldn’t even ask his friends, knowing he wasn’t going to get a straight answer from any of them.

Tyler gasps as the sound of shattered glass breaks the silence between the three of them.

“Shit,” he seethes, “got clipped in the shoulder.”

“They’re onto you?” Delirious asked, rolling down his window and looking out.

“No shit,” Tyler says, I’ll phone you after I get rid of my fucking tail.” And the call went dead, Delirious dropped the phone as Evan’s right window was shot out, and he missed a bullet going by him.

He grasped his gun, pressed a button on the side of the door, the window rolled down as he brushed away shards of glass. Delirious is already shooting at a black car that slid away from its lane and crashes into the back part of the car.

Evan grunted, almost losing his hold on the gun. He rights himself and fires at the front windshield of the black car. The glass breaks as the bullets go through, and he knows that it’s not bulletproof as he shoots the passenger in the chest before moving his attention to the driver. The car almost smashed into another car as it tried to get away from Evan and Delirious’s line of sight.

“How the fuck did they find us?” Evan is yelling, pressing his side into the seat to keep himself from getting shot.

“Must’ve kept a camera at the warehouse, watching our movement until they decided to take us out,” Moo said, shaking his head as he steered away from the incoming car that was about to crash into them again.

Another car appears, sliding against another to make its way towards them. Delirious fires, bullets ricocheting off the car, sparks of light and broken glass is all Evan sees before he pulls himself through the window, gripping the sides and gritting his teeth as shards of glass dig into his palm. Delirious called his name while Evan pulled the trigger, the second car had bulletproof windows, barely scraping the surface as Evan fell back into the car after shooting the wheels.

“Stop,” Delirious says, grasping the steering wheel from Moo who was struggling. The car came to a lurching stop on the highway, the wheels screeching on the pavement before hitting another car, more glass shattered from the impact.

Evan had grasped onto the seat, but his grip faltered and he was shoved off, hitting the back of Moo’s seat and falling onto the floor. He groaned, a loud ringing disoriented himself before he pushed himself up, grasping the handle and opened the door.

“Vanoss,” Delirious murmured from the passenger, almost sounding like he was pleading, but Evan wasn’t listening as another door opened and a body had hit the ground, he could see them crawling toward the gun they dropped from the impact. They also collided with another car, several had stopped completely, most were staring at Evan as he walked by, a gun carefully held in his hand as he let out soft pants from his lips.

It was hot. The sun was too warm, and the air too light. His rapid heart made the clothes he was wearing itch, it was all constricting.

The man in all black reaches for the gun on the asphalt, barely rising before Evan shot his arm, forcing him to drop it. Screams accentuating the air, but Evan could barely hear the noise.

He needed answers, and this is how he was going to get it. Even if there were people watching, one of these bastards who followed them were going to talk one way or another.

He was close, keeping the gun to the man’s head as his blue eyes were filled with rage. He spat blood from his mouth, a word left him, but another gunfire jolted Evan and a hand fell on his shoulder, pulling him back before the man on the ground was also shot dead.

Evan breathed evenly, staring at the back of Delirious’s short cropped hair, sweat sliding down his neck as he turned to face Evan. There was precision in his eyes, no regret, but some kind of promise that Evan didn’t understand. A sort of mental talk that he once had with his friend, they were able to understand each other well, but now, things were different.

Delirious was keeping a promise for someone else, and it also deterred his trust from Evan.

It made things difficult than gunmen hunting them for the life of their captured friends. It also gave Evan more incentive to learn more, even if he had to keep it to himself.

This was going too far anyway.

Delirious leads him back toward Moo who was holding the phone in his hand. A loud noise was coming from it, and it seemed Tyler was still alive and kicking.

“For fuck sakes, these assholes,” he said on the other line, the rest of garbled.

“We’re heading that way,” Moo said, ducking his head and getting back into the driver’s seat.

“Well, make sure you aren’t followed, and if you are, fucking do something about it,” Tyler said, “we have more pressing matters to deal with. Fucking distractions.”

Evan looked down at his bleeding hand and rubbed it on his shirt before getting into the car. He didn’t glance at the people who stared at a bunch of murderers. Nor were they going to stick around for the police. They’d have to lose their vehicle and find another place to squat.

Maybe it’d give him enough time to figure out what his friend’s were hiding. His own patience was thinning, and he didn’t know when it was going to snap, but he hoped it would be soon.

Moo backed up, and Evan noticed something from his peripheral vision. He turned toward it, glancing at a man standing on the sidewalk near a smoking car. He was leaned against the railing, enjoying the sun, the breeze, and the chaos.

He noticed Evan staring and smiled at him. His face was more distinguishable now, his features forming into something Evan didn’t want. Even his clothes were finally smoothing out, his body becoming solid than the shaky shadows that followed Evan around. Whispering in his head about his lack of worth, and the things he had to deal with. This was one of them, his own secret laid out for none of them to understand.

This was his problem.

Evan turned away from the Delirious look-alike as Moo drove past the cars.

Chapter Text

They were driving for some time until a phone went off and Delirious picked it up and pressed speaker for the rest of them to listen in. It was SMii7y, and he seemed from the way he spoke, was quite enthusiastic.

“We found Scotty!” Evan couldn’t help the smile rising to his face at the good news. “And we slaughtered everyone else we came across,” SMii7y continued with that same amount of glee in his voice that crumbled Evan’s smile. He shuddered at the way he spoke, at the happiness in his voice. He wasn’t entirely used to it, even though he should’ve been. The pinpricks along his skin as he looked away from the phone in Delirious’s hand.

“Bastards kept us from getting to Scotty,” Kryoz spoke up, grunting in the background before a gun went off, and Evan flinched, his entire body tensing up at the harsh sound. The others didn’t seem interested as much, but Evan found his voice had faded away momentarily.

They were completely and utterly disinterested in death. He was like that once. When everyone who came upon him that wasn’t a friendly was the enemy. Three years couldn’t rid that from his mind, three years couldn’t stop him from thinking about how horrible it was to take a life with a smile on his face.

"We left a guy alive, so hopefully this bastard can help us,” Wildcat said, his voice coming from the phone, an ugly sound escaped him as he spat on the ground. “Or we'll have no idea where they’re taking Basically now, for fuck sakes.”

They were deterred but Evan didn’t want to think so negatively. Not now when they finally rescued Scotty from Serpent. If they can manage one, they can also locate the others. They shouldn’t lose hope so quickly, not when his friends were all level headed and trigger happy.

Evan breathed heavily at his blood stained hand and shirt. A maroon color that made his mouth dry, and his breath hitch. He was choking. Again and again, it wouldn’t let up until Delirious seemed to have noticed, and told Moo to pull over on the side of the road.

Evan hadn’t thought about it before his hand grasped the handle to the car and he stumbled out and onto the hard dirt surface as he let out a harsh gasp. It was too much. The sounds, the world, all the colors blending together into a kaleidoscope, a claustrophobic hive of thoughts and memories burning his insides. He didn’t even have strength to get up, to acknowledge anyone as he rocked back and forth on the ground, trying to calm his ragged breathing.

Delirious was in front of him, a plume of dirt appeared as he slid to his knees and he almost reached out to touch Evan but hesitated. He was speaking while Evan stared, unsure of what he was saying. He couldn’t even understand him and it sent him into another panic that made him choke, his stomach burned, his throat constricting until he turned over and threw up on the side of the road.

He dry heaved while Delirious patted his back, telling him to let it all out and that he’ll be fine when he’s finished. Except he wasn’t sure if he will, it was too much as it was. All of it a complete and utter mess that he couldn’t grasp. He needed time to think, a safe place away from the hot sun and the sweat, and his clothes that he needed to tear from his body and throw into a fire.

“Hey,” Delirious spoke softly to him as Evan turned back, rocking again, “everything will be okay, alright, I won’t let anyone hurt you, you’re safe with me. You’re always safe with me, Vanoss.”

Safe? Did he even know what that meant in their line of work. He wanted to grab Delirious and scream in his face at how ridiculous he sounded. He wanted to demand the truth from the lies, to sift through them, but even those words filled with rage wouldn’t pass through his lips, and he let Delirious help him to his feet and back into the vehicle.

“We’ll be there soon,” Moo said into the phone before hanging up. He gave an uneasy look at Evan in the rearview mirror before Delirious got in, and they were on the road once more.

Evan ignored his friends and curled against the seat, staring at the blue sky with its divided puffy clouds. If he could forget for a few hours, pretend he was somewhere else where the sound of gunfire could finally fade away, then that would be enough for him to forgive everything his friends were keeping from him.

Except that was a fantasy, and those were only wish fullments he had told himself would never come true. Even back then when cruelty bled into his being, his future self stayed to those words, to his beliefs, and he hated with every fiber of his being.

They returned to their temporary hideout and found SMii7y and Kryoz within. They seemed calm, less hyped as before. Until SMii7y turned around with a big smile on his face, something that looked oddly out of place.

“He’s downstairs,” SMii7y told them, and he also mentioned that Scotty was sleeping in one of the adjacent rooms from his time with Serpent. Apparently they had deprived him of water since he was kidnapped, and he wasn’t looking well in the least.

The others seemed unbothered by this and followed SMii7y downstairs of the small house and it was there that Evan was sure he hadn’t thrown up everything in his body yet. SMii7y held a knife in his hand, it was blackened with fire and blood, and he stuck the man with it, sliding in without any trouble, and the man let out a scream from behind his covered mouth. Eyes burning red while tears trickled down his sweat stained skin.

It seemed Kryoz didn’t feel much sympathy for the man either. He was the one who tied the knots, kept the man in place enough for SMii7y to have his fun.

There was a table to the side with several other makeshift torture devices. SMii7y didn’t seem to care much about them, he liked simply things like knives, puncturing the skin with deep scars that bled and bled, and that didn’t touch a single vein.

“Alright, sociopath, move aside,” Wildcat said, stepping from the shadows and taking the knife from SMii7y’s hand, shoving him toward Kryoz as both men sneered, but they didn’t fight Wildcat, they stayed in their corner, enveloped in darkness.

While Wildcat tore the tape from the man’s mouth and all they could hear was the ramblings coming from his split lip, before Wildcat slapped him hard across the face. The others seemed to have laughed at the reaction while the man whimpered under the bright basement light.

Evan grasped Delirious’s wrist, noting the same satisfaction on his own face before pulling him toward the hall that led to the staircase.

“What’s wrong?” Delirious asked, frowning at him.

Evan wasn’t sure how he was meant to say to his friend, but he needed to know. “Tell me what you and the others were conducting before you brought me in. I want the truth, Delirious, the full truth of what the fuck is going on.”

Delirious’s expression fell, cringing as he glanced away from Evan before letting out a deep sigh. “It’s not as serious as you think it is.”

Evan scoffed. “It’s pretty fucking serious from what I can tell.”

His friend met his eyes, and there was nothing of that emptiness he had seen many times. There was torment, a silent guilt he wouldn’t confront. It reminded Evan a lot of what he witnessed in the mirror each morning before he got used to it.

“Lui...took on a mission, a government mission,” he smiled at Evan who was shaking his head in disbelief, “yeah, I know, why the fuck would he do that? But he did anyways, thought he was hot shit, you know. That’s Lui for you.”

“What happened?”

“We were betrayed,” Delirious said, shrugging and looking away again. “Lui and his team went missing first, and then the second followed after, and we hadn’t heard from them since. The remaining,” Delirious glanced to the room where Wildcat was talking to the man, smacking him whenever he rambled too much and cursing at SMii7y who tried to continue torturing the man, this time with a heavy wrench, “were meant to die.”

Was it enough to know this from Delirious? He kept glancing away, not looking at him, as if he were nervous of the truth, maybe even guilty or embarrassed. Why would he be embarrassed of a mission Lui decided for them? It didn’t make any sense.

Evan nodded, giving him a reassured smile. “Thanks for telling me, Delirious. Everything has been...confusing, and hearing the truth from you makes things a lot more...easier.”

Delirious returned the smile. “No problem. I’m always here for you, Vanoss. If you need to be cleaned up or eat something, it should be upstairs. I know this might be upsetting for you,” he indicated the torture that was happening as SMii7y slammed the wrench into the man’s knee and the scream echoed, and Evan sucked in a sliver of breath, his hand gripped the cold rusted railing as he nodded toward Delirious, “try to sleep, I’ll wake you when we get enough information from this guy.”

Evan nodded, trying to calm his breathing as he walked up the stairs without anything else to say. When he reached the main floor, he realized everyone was downstairs. No one was with him, and he was alone with his rapid thoughts and his shaking hands.

“He’s lying,” Evan whispered as he looked toward the laptop and went straight for it. He sat down, glancing at the door to the basement that was left ajar, and opened the laptop and started to type. He needed an interface of the entire city, something that could give him a substantial grid unlike what he had shown them earlier.

There were parts of Delirious’s story that didn’t make sense. There were holes and explanations to why Lui decided to take on a government mission when he knew it would end up like this. Three years and Lui decided to do this? Three years and they brought Evan in from the outside without any regard for how he felt towards their blood lust.

He guessed they wouldn’t have cared in the least. He was one of the best out of them, and it was a good enough strategy. In the past, Evan would’ve also ignored his pain, his trauma, his fears. Now, there was something taut against him that he couldn’t ignore.

It’ll snap soon enough, he just didn’t want to be around them when it happened. He needed answers before any of them could find out what he was doing behind their backs.

If they were going to lie, he might as well do so too.

Once he hacked into a site that gave him the grid to the entire city, including Serpents diagrams, and the signals he had located earlier. It wasn’t a typical grid either. It was one he pulled up without any houses, just simple lines running through the city, he blocked out the cells and calls, including the wires from power and energy lines. Serpent had given him enough of what he needed, and in the short time span of fifteen minutes, Evan modified the signals and they popped up in succession before him.

They’re all weak, barely blinking on the screen. He grabbed a pen and paper and wrote down where exactly they were, being as specific as he can, unlike his friends were being as they lied through their teeth to him.

He was good at spotting lies, how could they not know that?

Maybe three years was long enough to still get the upper hand.

Continue your search for the others. — Evan.

He needed to figure out what the other signals were. Closing out what he had created and tucking the paper in his hand and leaving the note for Delirious.

Evan got up and headed out of the kitchen to the front door. He grasped the knob and stepped outside, and was greeted by the shadow waving at him at the end of the walkway.

Delirious.

Why that form?

“Can’t seem to trust your own mind, and now,” the shadow spoke, laughing the same as his friend would while Evan brushed past him, “you can’t seem to trust your friends. Poor little owl.” And he laughed, and Evan begged him to shut up, but he followed behind him, mocking him as he drew further away from his friends.

Chapter Text

He’s been trying to get somewhere, at the same time, trying to ignore the voice that was following behind him. He hadn’t thought it would become a nuisance. He should’ve known it would since it took after his appearance. He could hardly understand what it was saying. A blur of incoherence, and he’s quite aware it’s not real, but he can’t help that he knows its there. He can get through this without its needless mumbling.

Evan set the laptop down on the park bench and the signals he had found earlier. He couldn't be sure, but he had to be, he didn’t want this to be a waste of time. He checked the signals a few times once he was standing thirty feet away from a large grey warehouse.

He had a sinking suspicion that it wasn’t real. 

The shadow chuckled, mocking him. “What are you going to do?”

It’s a decoy. This place wasn’t real. He took out his laptop again and sat down under the shade of a tree. He wanted to make sure that it was real, and that he wasn’t being fucked over. Except everything was pointing to this place having nothing in it. 

It was bought over a few days ago, and not many people had wandered around this area. The cameras near the stop signs several blocks away were cut, mixed around, and replaced. This place was too secure if someone didn’t know what they were looking for, while Evan was staring at a large trap in the middle of nowhere with a metal fence surrounding it. 

“Shit,” Evan muttered, taking out the electricity in the area, not sure if it worked once he closed the laptop and tucked it inside his bag. “This place isn’t real, it’s a decoy.” They knew they hacked into their systems, they wanted to make sure that someone got close enough. And if Evan had gone inside, it would’ve ruined everything he was trying to do. 

The shadow flickered, asking the same question, “What are you going to do?”

Evan knew what he wanted, he knew the plan, and he figured the shadow also knew. It wanted him to say it, to reveal it to himself. “I’m...going to kill all of them.”

The shadow chuckled, “You’re not going to have time. Your friends are going to die, and you’re going to fail.”

Evan shook his head, “Not again.”

He took out the gun he took from Delirious and headed down the slope toward the warehouse. 

“You’re going to die,” the shadow whispered in his ear.

Evan scoffed. “When the fuck did you start caring about my well being?”

The shadow chuckled and said nothing else, which was fine with Evan. He was about to do something that was incredibly dumb, and could easily get himself killed. He was numb, and he didn’t care, and he felt like he should care. 

He managed to take out some of their communications, and that included their cameras that hung around the building. There weren’t many to his surprise, but it wasn’t like they were staying for a long period of time, they were simply waiting for them to spring their trap, kill them, and head out. 

Did he even have to think about this? Was he chasing after his death, asking for it to end his life in anyway possible. All the stress, the lack of sleep, the panic and anxiety easing into his body pulsed with life. 

He guessed there was also the anger thrumming in his veins. The parts of him that hated and hated until it became exhausting. 

He thought back at his apartment when it didn’t take him that much energy to kill the intruders that wandered in his apartment to kill him. He didn’t take long, and in seconds, they were dead. He hadn’t lost any of his skills in the years that he separated from the friends that he knew, the ones he tried to push in the back of his mind. 

Was he one of the best?

No.

He wasn’t. Unlike the others, they were better, more skilled, more organized. He was simply the one who was willing to enter battle with his friend’s, to kill others for a laugh and a bit of excitement. That was who he was, at least at the time when his mind didn’t fracture into pieces when everything came to a halt. 

When did the parts of him began to chip away, taking every little bit that made him who he was, fade? Did he even recognize himself? He didn’t think so, the mirror was never his friend. The alcohol, the drugs, the drowsiness when he spent days awake without trying to sleep. It only took him to a brink that brought him to his knees, falling against his bed, on the pillows and blankets, the mattress that didn’t feel like his own.

Nothing ever felt right.

Except this, the gun in his hand, the thought of intent on his mind. That felt right, but it was also misplaced.

He wasn’t here to be stealthy, he was here for answers, and that’s what he’s going to get. 

The first man walked out, he wanted to inspect the camera’s, confusion flashed on his face, but when he noticed Evan, it was too late. He shot him, and then another, and another, and another. It was quick, ruthless, and their bodies fell in a familiar rhythm, until he glanced around when he heard voices coming to one area of the warehouse, and then the next. 

Were there more?

Did he even want to believe that there were? He counted the bodies, and there were at least nine soldiers from Serpent. 

“Scared?” the shadow asked, standing on one side of him, and Evan turned away, not wanting to believe he was there. “Do you hear them? They’re talking to you, asking you questions, and you won’t even answer them.” The shadow chuckled. “Pitiful, isn’t it?”

Evan sucked in a sliver of breath, his heart was racing so hard from what he had done. He was right. It didn’t take that long. He knew what he was doing and those types of skills weren’t going to fade away just because he was gone for awhile. Even now, he didn’t have to overthink his friends, and there was the small fear that he could’ve accidentally killed one of them if they were in his midst.

Evan looked to several of the bodies where the voices were coming from.

“He’s here…”

“Don’t you hear them…”

“They’re close...so close.”

Evan bit his lower lip as the voices grew around him. “Please...shut up.”

“You weren’t going to answer th—”

Evan fired his gun at the bodies until the voices began to fade. Except one that was most distinct out of the voices he heard. Not even the shadow spoke, it was gone from his sight, and he was alone with the one voice. 

He followed it and came upon a man partly crawling out of the warehouse. He was bleeding extensively from his leg, and he grappled for the dirt under his fingernails as leverage, muttering and groaning before Evan pressed his foot down on his back. 

“Fuck...fuck you…” the man said with sweat layering his tan skin, while his blue eyes were wild as Evan placed the barrel of the gun against his forehead, earning Evan a scream from the man. 

“You and your little group stole my friends,” Evan said, staring at the man, finger calm on the trigger, “where did you take them?”

The man willed up a chuckle that was both nervous and pained, “You ain’t getting them back, they’re all dead, you fucking bast—”

Evan pulled the trigger and the man’s body went limp underneath him. 

What if he can’t find them? 

Evan backed away from the body and leans against the warehouse, moving down to sit on the ground as he set the gun to the side. 

Are they dead? Was he wrong about doing this alone? Was he too late?

“No...no...no...no,” he murmured, squeezing his eyes closed while his chest began to tighten, and the breath burned as it tried to release. “No. I’m late, aren’t I? This is wrong! I can’t be late. They’re dead, they’re dead, they’re fucking dead!” 

He’s crying. Oh god, he’s crying, and it hurts to cry, he had tried his hardest not too many times. It was weak. In his mind, it meant weakness, to cry, but there was no one around, only the bodies he had shot up with bullets. 

When he left his friends, it was difficult to speak to someone who knew what they were talking about. And when they prescribed him medication, he thought it wouldn’t work, that he could do better without it instead of leaning on the psychiatric drugs. 

He took them, everyday, in a routine so he could remind himself that the tension, the hate, the pain, everything inside of him that made him scared of the walls, of shadows during the nights when he would keep his apartment lights on, when the smallest sounds frightened him, that it would all go away once the medication started to work. 

He had to believe that it was going to work, and it took a week, another week, and more, and soon he realizes the voices had stopped, the anxiety mellowed out, and he was able to think without the depression hanging around him. 

“It was fine…” he murmured, rocking back and forth softly, his back hitting the warehouse as he kept his eyes closed while the warm wind touched his face. “It was fine...it was fine...it was fine...until it stopped.”

They came back in waves, sometimes the anxiety, sometimes, the depression, and worse of all, the voices, the shadows, the people who stared too hard, the cameras hiding in his house where the people in the walls listened to his every movement. It frightened him, scared him so badly that sometimes he didn’t stay in his apartment for too long.

“Oh fuck…” Evan whimpered, wiping away the tears from his face. He continued taking the medication, even if sometimes they didn’t work, or stress triggered them, or something at work made him think terrible things. He had to make this work for him, and if it didn’t, he had no desire to work from the bottom and go back up to the top. 

Evan pushed himself to his feet, gun in hand, as he entered the warehouse again and looked around. He needed to find his friends, that’s all that mattered to him right now. He didn’t care about anything else, if he found out that they died, he wanted to know where their bodies were, and he wanted to be the one who identified them without Serpent telling him different, and the voices lying to him. 

“What are you going to do?” the shadow asked. 

He knew where it was without looking at it. He knew that familiar voice that usually smiled way too much, and laughed manically, it was so familiar that he hated how distorted it sounds when it wasn’t coming from the original source.

“I’m going to find them, and kill them,” Evan said, picking up different files, flipping them open and discarding them. One of these assholes must’ve had something that told them where the rest of their group would be. Unless he killed the intel, then that was his bad. He’ll have to do something to make up for it. 

Evan took off his backpack that held his laptop and left it on the table. It was hot, and having to carry it everywhere was getting tiresome.

“You’re not going to find anything here…” the shadow spoke, following Evan crossing the room toward another set of equipment sitting on the side of the warehouse. 

“They brought something with them,” Evan scoffed, “and that means there’s a way to track them.” He found a set of keys inside one of their pockets and grinned as he headed out of the warehouse toward one of their jeeps sitting in the back, covered in a tarp. He unlocked the vehicle and pulled himself in the driver’s seat, turned the car on, and checked the GPS. “Dumbasses didn’t delete this.”

“Can you delete it?” the shadow asked, sitting in the passenger seat, grinning at Evan. 

“I don’t know,” Evan said, grimacing, “but it looks like they were going to make sure anyone who wandered close was going to get themselves killed.”

“And look what you did to their entire little regiment,” the shadow chuckled, “you killed them all in a swoop of fifteen minutes.”

“It was less than that.”

“No need to brag, I was right there beside you.”

Evan shivered. He got the last location of where these guys came from, and he even wrote down one of their driver’s plates in case he wanted to track it later. 

“You’re not taking their vehicle?” the shadow mused, following Evan into the warehouse where he left his laptop on one of the tables. He opened the laptop and began typing for a few seconds before it came up to the right servers he needed.

The shadow sat on the table, his grin still spread wide across his face. He wasn’t even looking at the screen, and his eyes stayed fixated on Evan. “Paranoid?” it asked.

Evan frowned at what he was doing. He was hacking into the computer back at the safe house where he had left his friends. “They’re keeping something from me, they know something...and I have to find out what it is.”

To Evan’s despair, he and the shadow said at the same time, “they’re lying to me.”

He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do with his paranoia and fear. Was it misplaced or was it something he was meant to feel? He knows that he might even be lying to himself, and that he can’t trust his perception. 

Right now, he needed to find Lui, and hope the others locate the rest of their kidnapped friends before Serpent decides to kill them off, or bad case scenario, they’re already dead.

“No one, but Lui,” the shadow mocked.

Evan closed the laptop. “Lui knows more than the others, he’s all that matters.”

He’s not sure if that’s true, it was hard to trust his friends when they were clearly lying to him, and he wasn’t even sure if he could trust himself.

“You’re abandoning them?” the shadow asked, laughing similarly like Delirious.

Evan went still at the sound. He hated how uncomfortable the shadow was becoming. He peered at it as it rocked back and forth on its feet. It was becoming so much like Delirious in appearance, and soon, he might not be able to distinguish between the two. 

He couldn’t think about that, not now. 

“They’ll understand,” Evan told it. The shadow said nothing as Evan takes the laptop and leaves the warehouse.

Chapter Text

He found the coordinates, he knew where to go. All he had to do was move, simply move and do nothing else. 

Evan came upon footsteps and old tire tracks on one side of the building by the alley. He glanced to the concrete walls and looked at the spray painted logos and old signs knocked over. 

“This is the place,” he whispered, glancing around. The building looked empty of people, there were no other cars. He was getting anxious before his gaze landed on a group of people standing by the corner of the street. 

“What are you going to do?” the shadow asked, a soft laughter escaping them. 

“None of your business,” Evan said, taking out his gun and when he got close enough, he pointed the gun at the men and women, and he watched as they tensed, one of them managed to run off, but Evan didn’t care. 

“Whoa, man, holy shit,” a man said, his head was bald, eyes dark, wearing a beige canvas jacket and baggy jeans. “Don’t just fucking point a gun at people on the street.”

“Was anyone in this area in the last few hours or days?” Evan asked, ignoring the man and glancing at the two women standing beside him, one of them was wearing a fur coat. 

“Yeah,” the woman said, chewing on gum, “two large trucks were parked there for several days—”

“Left about an hour ago,” the other said, pulling the coat tight around her, and glancing away from Evan.

“—Four hours ago,” the man said, narrowing his eyes at her.

“What direction?” Evan asked, lowering the gun but keeping it in view. 

The woman chewing on the gum pointed down the street. “Last we saw ‘em.”

“Thanks,” Evan said, tucking the gun into his pocket and headed down the street. He didn’t bother looking back, but he did sprint across the street once he turned the corner. He needed to get somewhere quiet so he could hack into the street cameras. He spent a bit of time doing that when he found a secluded place where he wouldn’t be interrupted. 

Evan hums as he stared peculiarly at the video feed. The screen was fuzzy on certain parts. 

“They’re hiding.” 

He didn’t appear like he always did. His voice was soft and mocking in his ear, close enough to touch, but Evan didn’t move away as he moved attention to a corner store close by. 

He needed to find Lui. And hacking into the cameras was easy as he moved them toward the street where the two large trucks drove by down the street. He hacked into another until he found a trail leading in the downtown area that was surrounded by people, and backed up by traffic.

“I’m close,” Evan said, getting up from the ground and tucking the laptop back into the bag. He takes a bus down the street and walked the rest of the way until he sneaked around the alley, making sure he wasn’t watched, and that his hood covered his head. He spotted the trucks sitting in the alley between two large buildings, and he bit his lower lip, knowing for sure the building was covered with Serpent agents. 

“Shit.” He had to find a way inside without getting shot. 

“Uh-oh. Looks like Lil Owl needs some help.”

“No…” He can’t involve them. He doesn’t even trust them, why bother? He tries to think of a different idea, but he has no other choice. He needs a distraction to get to Lui. 

Evan clenched his teeth and reached into his pocket where he kept his phone. Reluctantly, he dialed Delirious’s number and placed the phone to his ear, pressing himself into the corner of the brick wall, hoping he was in some way concealed by the public. 

The phone is answered on the second ring, and Evan opens his mouth to talk, but Delirious beats him to it.

“Why the fuck did you fuck off? Where the fuck are you?” he asked, his voice shrill in the phone.

Evan winced.

“And by the way, asshole, we found Marcel and Scotty, and we’re trying to locate the others why you...you...fucking asshole.”

He really did not have any time for this. “I might’ve found Lui.”

Delirious was silent for a second while Evan tapped his foot on the cement, and then he heard his exasperated sigh. “Where? Where the fuck did you find him? And where were you?”

And Evan tells him an address, not the one several feet behind him, but a close address that could get Serpent away from the building. He needed the place as thin as possible. The moment he gets off the phone and sighs against the wall is barely enough to alleviate what he’s about to do next.

The laughter coming to his left makes Evan go still, and he appears as Delirious, grinning at him. “Now who’s the liar.”

He knew he was doing the wrong thing in not telling Delirious. Everything has been hazy and sick, he can barely think about anything else. He needed to obsess over this, and if he didn’t, he knew he wouldn’t have gotten this far. He couldn’t stop just because his guilty conscious was making fun of him.

Evan pushed himself away from the wall and headed down the street. He needed to find a coffee shop. 

He sat in a booth, ordering himself a glass of water while hacking into the streetlights and starting several unnecessary car accidents. He taps his foot while watching the mess from the camera feed, and waiting on his friends. It takes them awhile, and Evan drinks the rest of the water before blacking out a section of the city hotels and buildings on one side of the street, including the coffee shop he was sitting in. 

He tucked his laptop into the bag and slung it over his shoulder as he walked out the front door and down the street, back toward the building where Lui was being held in. 

Now he knew why Lui taught him how to hack. Or at least use it as a weapon than a tool, it’s just a matter of perspective of how he was going to use it.

He called the hotel and threatened a staff. It’s mild at best, but he wants several staff members not to be present while he makes his way to the top floors.

Evan watched one of the SUV’s leave the back alley, and he made sure no one was inside once they were gone. He didn’t need his plan falling apart because he was careless. He needed their attention on one end of the city, and his friend’s were a great distraction. They were practically targets while they searched for the others. And Evan could do whatever he needed on the outside of their circle, unseen by their enemies. 

He sprints toward the back entrance of the hotel while one of the staff members bolts out, and he manages to grab the door before it closes. 

Evan held a gun as he made his way up the stairs, watching the top floors and anyone who was a floor above him. And yeah, he was right, Delirious and the others were fantastic distractions. The hotel was thinned out besides the top floors. He knew getting to Lui was going to be dangerous, and he made sure he carried another magazine.

He found one of the rooms he was searching for. A computer sat against the wall next to a window, and Evan silently closed the door, pushed the handle and lifted the window, propping it up before tossing the computer out the window. He didn’t wait to hear it smash to the ground before leaving the room. 

It was their system that watched theirs. He needed to get to it so his friends weren’t spied on anymore, or at least watched from a distance. He didn’t need Serpent getting ahead of themselves as it is.

The black out helped take out anyone who was inside the room. They must’ve took a laptop with them, and maybe Evan will get to that later once he finds Lui. 

He climbs to the top floor and reached for the doorknob. He’s careful this time unlike before. They were upstairs, all of them, watching what was going on as carefully as they can with guns on them. He isn’t precisely sure how many were left, but when he opens the door, he kills the first, then the second, third, and fourth. He counts them, makes sure that’s how many is sitting inside the SUV. He takes out the fifth and sixth, seventh, and comes upon the eighth.

This was a small group, did the others leave beforehand? They must’ve relocated, and if the eighth man was currently pointing a gun at an unconscious Lui, then he was also dead weight, a liability, a hostage they no longer needed.

“You’re fucking risky,” the man glared in the dark.

Evan narrows his eyes, holding the gun loosely at his side. “I don’t even know if any of this is real enough to be risky.”

“Fuck you,” the man spats out. “You killed seven agents...you found us, you...fuck you!”

Evan isn’t even sure why he’s mad, and then the gun is yanked out of the agent’s hand, and the gun goes off, his body falls, and Lui is staring at Evan.

“Fucking asshole should pay attention.” Lui kicks the body, placing the gun down beside him. “Why are you here, Evan?”

Evan walked over to Lui, and he hits him hard with his own gun, watching Lui’s body fall back against the floor. He frowned at the gun in his hand, the quiet crawled along his skin like insects, the cold touch of them makes him uncomfortable. He’s surrounded by bodies again, like the nightmares that ease into his dreams at night. 

Like tonight.

Only the soft noises from outside are slightly muffled by glass, and there’s no one else, but him and Lui, their breathing soft, and anxious. 

“I have no idea why I’m here,” Evan placed the gun into his pocket while kneeling down beside Lui, “but you’re the only one who’ll give me answers.” He lifted Lui off the floor and carried him out of the room.

Chapter Text

He stepped over the bodies after he found the keys. He ignores the splatter of blood on his shoes after he carried Lui down the steps and placed him in the passenger seat of the vehicle. He made sure Lui’s wrists were secured with a zip tie and his body was held by the seatbelt before closing the door.

The power along the block had lit up five minutes after, and several cops were securing a few buildings.

Evan could hardly think, his body was on autopilot as he headed back up the stairs where he found information on another laptop. He took it off the charger and written some coordinates on his wrist with a pen before smashing the laptop. It was all static noise to his thudding heart. Then he was down the steps, listening to the police knocking on the front door of the building while he walked out the back.

He sniffled as he got into the vehicle, tossing a file into the back seat before starting up the SUV and driving out of the alley. He was careful, but not too concerned as he drove away from the building stacked with dead bodies, all of them riddled with bullets from a gun he tossed out the window several blocks away. 

He was urgent, but his body moved too slow, and his thoughts slower. He flinched while in traffic at a subtle noise inside his head. Gun fire, he blinked and blinked, his body twitching, and then he evened out his breathing, fingers tense on the steering wheel. He had to repeat simple words to comfort his mind. Throughout it all, he didn’t bother looking at Lui’s unconscious body leaned against the window.

It was about thirty minutes later when he phoned Delirious back. He had insistently called him, but Evan didn’t want to hear his voice until he was partially out of the city. He expected exactly what Delirious was going to say, and the phone was answered on the first ring, he moved his head away from the phone while listening to the yelling.

“Where the fuck are you?” Delirious asked, voice shrill. “How the fuck can you do that? What the fuck are you thinking, Vanoss? I can’t believe it, you fucking idiot! We trust you and you fucking use us like that.”

“Give me the fucking phone, Delirious,” Wildcat said in a low threatening tone, Delirious swore while passing the phone over.

Evan sighed while listening to another barrage of yelling that was full of curses from both Wildcat and Basically before the phone was given back to Delirious.

“Where the fuck are you this time?” Delirious asked, exasperated. “Don’t fucking give us a false—”

“I’m going to send coordinates to you,” Evan said. “I also have Lui if that matters to any of you.”

“Fuck you,” Wildcat said. 

Was he still moving on autopilot. He can’t tell, it all too much, his mind is empty but he’s thinking way too much. How can that be? He isn’t even sure if he’s feeling anything at all.

“I want all the information of your exploits in the last three years,” Evan said, his voice sounding flat in his ears. “A bit of truth might help me slow down my progress.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Delirious asked.

“If you don’t give me the information of everything you did in the last three years,” he’s going to far, he knows he is, but the words spill out anyway, “I won’t tell you where I’m going to bury Lui. I want them in the next forty-five minutes.” He hangs up before he could anymore of their curses, he also turns off his phone so he doesn’t have to look at it ring.

He blinked a few times while keeping the car steady on the road. He’s frazzled after what he did, and he isn’t even sure what he’s doing. “I have no one to speak to, expect for you.” He glanced in the rearview where the shadow grinned at him in the back seat.

I’ll always keep you occupied,” the shadow says. “Without you, I don’t think I’d be proud of you for what you’re doing, and it’s all you, completely...without my advice, your friends are going to have a thrill knowing what you did in the second that it took you to kill those trained soldiers. A blink, right? That’s all it took. A second, a millisecond.” It chuckled. “They didn’t stand a chance against you.

“I’m not going to hurt Lui,” Evan said as if it was a question meant to be answered. He wanted to say it out loud, knowing he was bluffing in the threat he gave to his friends. He hoped it was good enough for them to understand the seriousness of their situation. “I just want answers, that’s all, it’s the only way to get them to listen to me.”

And how does that make you feel?

Evan stared forward, he was so tired. “Like I don’t properly know them. They feel like strangers to me, and if I have to, I’ll treat them like strangers.”

He drove for another thirty minutes before he located a dirt road that led into a valley. He followed a stream until he can’t take it anymore. It’s all coming back to him, the sounds, the words, the things he had done in the seconds that it took him. He hated living like he did in such a way. He moved faster than they did, he thought of the plan and executed it like how he used too. He should be happy, but Evan stopped the vehicle and shoved the door open, almost falling as he staggered toward the river; he sat down on the mossy ground, and covered his face with his hands.

“What the fuck am I doing?” he asked himself after a minute. He dropped his hands and watched the river, the rocks, the grass and the way the wind pushed against the branches of the trees. The silence is what he wants before he gets back up and walked to the vehicle.

Lui’s head lolled when he opened the door. He reached over and took off the seatbelt, then dragged Lui out of the car and back toward the river. He let his friend lean against him, and they sit for another fifteen minutes until Lui shifted away from him.

“I needed someone to talk to then the voices,” Evan says softly, unable to look away from the river.

“This is why I didn’t want them involving you,” Lui said in the same soft tone.

“Yeah, Basically said that too.”

“You’re way too fucking dangerous,” Lui said, somberly.

Evan nods. “I know.” Not in the way of being mentally unstable, but his skills he had beforehand, the way he killed fast, without mercy, without a thought that people had lives and they were nothing more than moving targets. That’s how he had once viewed them until it was too much, until the voices mocked him for it.

“I want information,” Evan said, “and right now, out of anyone, I know I can trust you.”

You can trust him,” the shadow mocked, walking around them, “is that true, are you telling the full truth, or are you lying to yourself that you think Lui is better than the others. Does that make you secure in your own lies?

Lui lets out a sigh, “I guess I’ll start from the beginning, it all started with false information…”

Don’t you like those types of lies?” the shadow asked while Evan’s body started to grow rigid.

He barely listened to Lui, his mind was stalling out, his body tightening, the river was loud in his ears.

“I hope...they say the same thing,” Evan said once Lui finished. “If not, I’ll shoot you right now, throw your body in the river, and give them a false location.”

Lui chuckled, “Why do you want to know, Evan?”

“Something is wrong, I can feel it, we aren’t on the right track anymore.”

“It might just be you,” Lui said, “it can happen with someone who’s mentally unwell, your reality is distorting. You experienced too much, and to help you cope, you’re lying to yourself, at least until I told you to leave three years ago. Thought it was a good idea, still do.”

Right...maybe he forgot that detail.


Lui had sat down with him that day. Evan was somewhat stable at the time. At least enough to understand what was about to happen.

You should leave soon,” Lui had said to him. This was after Evan had a nervous breakdown. He was shaking way too much, thinking the radios were tapped. The early symptoms were rough, and Evan agreed to leave even though he wasn’t going to tell Delirious about it. It was a decision that was good for him.


“I wanted to stay with him,” Evan said, leaning his chin on his knees. He wanted too, but he couldn’t handle it anymore. The ugly thoughts that Delirious was poisoning him had grew inside of his mind to the point he wasn’t eating or drinking. When he left without saying a word, he felt himself breaking inside, more than his mind.

“Maybe I should die.”

“Death won’t solve anything,” Lui said, “all it’ll do is waste a perfectly good person.”

Evan wasn’t even sure how he met Lui, but he was glad that he did. He took out a switchblade and cut the zip tie around his wrist.

“You’re not going to leave?” Evan asked him, dropping the knife and wrapping his arms around his knees.

“If you don’t shoot me and dump my body.”

Evan smiled faintly. “No, I won’t, I don’t think I can.”

The shadow knelt in front of him and grinned at Evan while his body stiffened. “Now, look what happened, you’re all frozen up again. Let’s hope your friends take good care of you, unless they leave you here to die.” It chuckled while Lui took out he phone from inside of Evan’s pocket and dialed a number.

Chapter Text

Lui opened the door to the SUV and helped Evan into the back seat. “We’re going to a rendezvous point, okay?” Lui said, and then he closed the door. He walked around the vehicle and sat in the driver’s seat, he put the phone on speaker while putting the key into the ignition, and twisting it so the engine would come on with a smooth rumble.

“Can you stop fucking—”

“Delirious,” Lui said, cutting him off.

“Holy shit, Lui, you’re alive!”

“I’m going to give you some coordinates and I want you to meet us there,” Lui said, turning the car around so he’d end up back on the dirt path. Evan fell to the side on the seat, his head landing on the file, the crinkling was loud in his ear. “Evan’s fine by the way, severely confused and currently catatonic.”

“Oh fuck, do you know what he fucking—”

“Delirious,” Lui snapped, and the other line went silent, “you fucking idiot, I told you many times before not to bring Evan into the field, at least not like this when shit is hitting the fan. Are you really that stupid?”

“I...well...I thought maybe—”

“Bring his medication,” Lui said, sounding annoyed. “I’ll need someone to take care of him while I retrieve Nogla...I’d rather not bring him with me.” He got off the phone before Delirious could say anything else and sighed exasperatedly. Evan had been around Lui when he was annoyed before, but he was mostly amused by everyone he comes into contact with. That’s how Evan knew Lui was different from a lot of people. He played the part that he was innocent, but the man was incredibly smart, and people overlooked that, and that was his advantage.

Good for him looking innocent when he wasn’t. Overly smart men liked pride way too much, men like Lui used pride to their advantage, a tool in other words. Not everything needs to be flashy.

“I’m not sure if you’re listening, but the mission I mentioned earlier that gone terribly wrong,” Lui sighed again. “The disc that came from the government was being watched by two militia’s. We staked out most of their bases, I knew I had to make sure that we wouldn't get fucked, but everyone makes mistakes, right?”

Lui rarely made mistakes, but Evan couldn’t open his mouth to voice that thought.

“We were meant to do it the next day in the evening.” Lui shrugged nonchalantly. “It wouldn’t have happened but the time kept changing when our numbers began to dwindle.” He glanced back at Evan and smiled before turning his attention to the road. “I’m not surprised you found me the way that you did. Like I said before, you’re a lot more proficient than the others, you see the big picture, even if you are mentally ill.”

Evan’s not entirely sure if Lui is trying to make him feel better. His body is so stiff that a part of his arm is tingling, but he can’t even move his fingers.

“I promise I’ll get you a new place after this is finished,” Lui continued, “that everything that happened will be anonymous again, we’ll have more contact with you, but I’ll make sure this time I won’t make the same mistake.”

Evan isn’t even sure what he wants from his friends, or what he wants from this. It’s not like he can outrun what he went through, even with the medication. All he wants is a clear mind, not the fear of sleeping alone, the emptiness of a home that didn’t feel like a home, some trust between friends, and something more that can make sense to him without the confusion tangling him up.

Hours go by, he knows it does because of the sunlight growing lighter then dimmer and becoming an almost orange shade in the sky. The vehicle comes to a crawl before it stops altogether. Lui gets out of the car and all Evan hears is silence before there’s a group of muffled voices outside of the vehicle. The voices are barely argumental before the door to the vehicle opens, and Evan feels the fresh evening air, and there’s also the strong scent of earth and gas.

“I thought it was a good idea,” Delirious said, sounding closer than Evan would have thought.

Lui pulled himself into the vehicle. “Yeah, well, while you thought bringing Evan into the field, he managed to kill an entire unit by using you idiots as a fucking distraction, then he took their information,” he reached over for the file and passed it to Delirious, “the only one I’m seeing that’s actually doing their job is Evan, and he’s no longer a qualified member. So guess who’s looking useless right about now.”

“It’s not our fault he went off on his own,” Wildcat said.

“Well, while you guys were running around with your heads cut off, he managed to save Basically—”

“I’m pretty sure we saved him.”

“He was with him, tracked Serpent, and gave you idiots the coordinates before going rogue for a bit,” Lui was shaking his head as he helped Evan to sit up and looked at him with a grim expression. “He shouldn’t have been brought in even if he saved our asses, I should’ve watched over him more, but I thought he could deal with it on his own.” He turned to face the others that were standing outside of the vehicle. “Someone has to stay with him, Nogla, Ohm, Brian, and Panda are still missing. Evan’s intel will help us locate them.”

Delirious sighed, “I’ll stay with him.”

“Alright then,” Wildcat said, his voice less tense, “then we should take what we have and go after them.”

“So we’re separating?” SMii7y’s voice was somewhere in the back.

“Of course, let’s go find the others,” Basically said.

“Here,” Lui said, and from the sound of it he was passing Delirious the keys. “Try not to fuck this up.”

Delirious laughed sarcastically, “Alright, I’ll do my best to protect him.” The door to the vehicle closed, and Evan slowly slid back down on the seat. Time was slow while he listened to Delirious’ muttering from the driver’s seat. He was telling Evan he was taking him to a beach for awhile until the others locate their missing friends. He didn’t seem resentful for what happened, but Evan could hardly think about Delirious’ feelings at the moment.

The drive wasn’t as long as Evan would’ve thought. Maybe they were close to a beach. The vehicle came to a slow stop and Delirious got out. Evan counted the seconds, and realized Delirious left him for twenty seconds before the door slid open, and Delirious pulled Evan into a sitting position.

“Do you like going to the beach?” he asked, grinning at Evan as he wrapped an arm around his shoulder, then he lifted Evan with ease, pulling him out of the car. “Can you stand?”

Evan wasn’t sure, but he wasn’t crumpling when Delirious closed the door. His legs were still, almost locked, the muscle hurting until Delirious let him lean against him until they were walking. Even that was a lot to deal with, but Evan couldn’t tell Delirious that until they were walking down the cement steps where their feet landed on the soft sand.

No one else was on the beach, and Delirious helped Evan sit down while they looked off toward the teal colored ocean reflected off the orange and pink expanse. It was beautiful, but Evan could hardly admire it too much when he was like this. 

“I got your medication,” Delirious said, he was holding a bag and dug into it for a pill bottle and a water bottle.

Evan stared at the bottle while Delirious opened it, taking out the pills, then uncapping the water bottle. 

“You can take this right?” Delirious tilted Evan’s head back and opened his mouth, he placed the pill into his mouth than helped him drink some of the water, slow enough that it didn’t spill along his cheek.

“I wasn’t going to bury Lui,” Evan managed to whisper after he swallowed the pill. He was getting back a bit of control, not enough, but it’ll have to do.

“I know,” Delirious said, screwing the cap back on and placing it on the sand, then tucking the pill bottle inside the bag.

Everything that happened up until three years ago, before, and then after, and now, it seemed like the passage of time was strained between those moments when he smiled and when he cried. The most happiness memories became an emptiness inside of him, and even how much he tried to forget, he couldn’t. How could he forget about it?

“Everything I do…” Evan said, trying to breathe evenly, but his chest restricted, as if walls were closing around him, trying to shut him up inside his head, “is violent.” Normal didn’t particular feel real enough when he held a gun, when he shot a man in the face, a man he should’ve realized had a family, had a name, and people who cared about him. He killed many people, and he tried his hardest to smile through all that pain and guilt while trying to pretend he was human.

The sky was changing into a deep blue, and Evan wondered if this moment would last forever. If he could stay with Delirious on this empty tan colored beach with the waves caressing the shoreline, if he could feel at peace without the pain inside of him telling him that he didn't deserve any of it. He wanted to stay with Delirious.

“Everything...I do is incredibly violent,” Evan said, his eyes watering while he stared at the changing sky, at the teal and dying yellow light, “like an endless turquoise sky.”

“Everyone is violent in their own way,” Delirious said, “people try to make up for it with every reason they could think up. We’re all going die one day and enjoying life doesn’t mean you have to enjoy the days that make you feel like shit. Our emotions are our own, and even if some don’t feel nothing, and some feel too much, what matters is who we are with what we do with the days we live.”

Evan could almost laugh, “How sentimental.”

“You’re the one getting watery eyed,” Delirious said, leaning his shoulder against his and reaching up to wipe away the tear that did escape from Evan’s eye. “I’d like to hang out with you more often, like before…”

“I don’t know.”

“I do hate myself for abandoning you, I shouldn’t have done that, leaving you alone with what you had to deal with.” Delirious sighed wistfully. “I don’t want to abandon you.”

Evan smiled at the horizon. “I like the beach in the mornings, I kind of hate the night.” It reminded him way too much of the shadows that lived inside of him.

“I promise,” Delirious reached for Evan’s hand, his fingers touching softly upon his, “we’ll hang out some more, we can come here in the morning at any time you’d like, and we can just sit like this.”

“I think I’m hallucinating you...saying all of that.”

Delirious chuckled softly, curling his fingers around Evan’s hand, “I promise, Evan.”

“Just...stay with me.” And Evan laid back against the sand and looked up at the stars as they began to appear, and Delirious laid down with him, his hand still holding Evan’s while the light of the day began to fade from the horizon.

Chapter Text

Evan is licking his ice-cream when Delirious’ phone rings. It’s about seven-thirty, they had brushed off sand from their clothes, and found themselves sitting at a picnic table.

Delirious licked a stripe of ice-cream before greeting the person on the other line. Evan watched Delirious’ passive expression open up, he leaned forward against the table, placing the phone between them on the table, and pressing the speaker button.

“Say that again,” Delirious said.

Lui sighed, “We found Nogla, and currently negotiating for the others.”

“That’s good,” Evan said.

“Yeah, by the way, don’t go near any cameras,” Lui said, “I’d rather corner them instead of giving them a way to fuck us over.”

“Thanks for the advice, we’ll keep our eyes open for any,” Delirious said. Lui told them he’ll phone them later once they know they can get the others. Delirious licked at his ice-cream while Evan glanced to the side, noticing a shift in the shadows before it began to mold into a person.

“Sooner or later, something will happen to your friends,” the shadow spoke, a grin widening across its face, “you won’t be able to stop it this time.”

Evan wasn’t sure what to say about that, he wanted to ignore the shadow. It was better to ignore it. Even if it still took Delirious’ shape. It was wrong, a voice of doubt inside his head that walked around them, humming.

Evan smiled, ignoring the shadow. “Let’s go back to the beach.”

They rose from the table and walked away from the sidewalk and along the pathway toward the beach. The light of the sky had fully darkened, and they spotted lights off the coast that came from the city. They finish their ice-creams by the time they reach the beach, and they end up making sand castles for the next half hour.

“Are you okay?” Delirious asked him.

“What makes you think I’m not?” Evan wondered, focused on the sand castle and hoping he wasn’t about to break the bridge that led inside the small structure.

“You’re twitchy,” Delirious answered, “a little paranoid.”

Evan chuckled, “I kind of wish I could live without the voices. I hate it, they make me feel paranoid, scared all the time, and I don’t want to be. For once, I’d like to feel...stable.” He sniffled, the mood dampening now that it’s on his mind. “I hate being alone with them, and all I can think about right now is that I want all of my friends to be safe.”

He can’t help it when he thinks of the last three years without his friends. He knew it was right, he kept telling himself that it was right. He had to stay where he was, he was comfortable, he had a job, an apartment, his medication. Everything was supposed to be easy, but it wasn’t. He heard the tapping on the windows, on the doors, the screaming of his name when the entire building was quiet and no one was on the other side. He was okay, but he couldn’t sleep in the dark anymore, and there were days when he thought about his friends, and how low he felt now that he wasn’t...an assassin, a killer, with blood dripping from his hands, staining his skin as if he still had crusts of it upon his face, and along his jaw. It took him a long time to get accustomed to the old feelings and the new ones.

“Were you ever scared?”

Evan knows what he means, and gave a flat smile, “I would’ve went back if you asked.”

Delirious frowned, stopping his concentration on the sandcastle while Evan placed a crinkled leaf on top of their monstrosity. “I was upset when you left, and then Lui explained everything. I knew you were getting worse, and you had to deal with all that shit by yourself.” He raked a hand through his short dark hair. “I should’ve visited at least, made sure you were okay.”

“I was trying to keep myself busy,” Evan said, knocking over one of their makeshift towers, the sand wasn’t wet enough to hold it properly. “I probably no longer have that job Lui procured for me.”

“I should’ve visited,” Delirious said under his breath.

Evan smiled, unsure of what he was supposed to do. He didn’t want his friend to feel guilty for not visiting, and he was kind of uncertain if he should tell Delirious that he thought about him more than anyone else. The thoughts mingled a lot with the insomniac days when coffee no longer tasted right, and the bugs crawled around his ankles and wrists, when he could feel them inside his mouth, and he spotted the legs of spiders in his food. He thought of Delirious because he was his best friend, and maybe thinking about him while his mind twisted their relationship to the point his hallucination formed into him. A reminder of those lonely hateful days when he wished Delirious could save him. When he closed his eyes and wished so badly that tears would form.

He didn’t want to tell him all of that. It seemed too much to process.

“I’ll leave…”

Evan looked up at Delirious and frowned. “Leave?” Delirious smiled at his reaction, but Evan was shaking his head, feeling a little conflicted. “Why?”

“I should’ve left when you left. I should’ve known what was happening wasn’t healthy.”

Evan stared at Delirious almost in a peculiar way before letting out a loud laugh, his chest filled with how stupid Delirious was, and he missed that about his friend. He said something with enough certainty that sometimes it didn’t sound right when it came out.

“Of course this isn’t healthy, Delirious, we killed people for a living” Evan said, knocking over another tower. “And when is anybody fully healthy nowadays?”

Delirious shrugged, “Might sound stupid from the shit you went through, but I think you’re healthy.”

Evan was never sure when Delirious was truly legit in the things he said, and because of the confusion, Evan was laughing again in a soft gloom of the beach they were sitting on, with the sound of waves, and the softness of the wind caressing their faces. He felt a little free in this single moment, and he wondered if he only ever felt that with Delirious.

“I had an episode.”

“You were off your meds.”

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“Long enough that you ended up killing a bunch of people and threatened Lui’s life.”

Evan glared half heartedly. “It was justified, those people were going to kill all of us, and we needed Lui.” Evan brushed off the sand and stood up. “I wouldn’t have killed Lui, I was bluffing, you’re all too easy to trick.”

“After what you did, it was confusing.”

“Sorry,” Evan said, frowning at Delirious.

“It’s fine, at least we have Lui back.”

They head back to the SUV where Evan crawls into the back and grasps for the laptop that was left behind. He opened it up while Delirious turned on the car. He worked a few minutes before checking the working cameras in the entire thirty mile radius and told Delirious that they were fine, he’ll just have to stay on the laptop to make sure they aren’t followed by anyone.

“So, we’re okay?” Delirious asked, driving away from the beach.

“Yeah, for now,” Evan said, glancing out the window at the dark street slightly illuminated by the streetlamps, “but everything violent happens at night.”

Chapter Text

Evan closed the laptop and crawled into the passenger seat. He told Delirious that they were fine and no one was trailing after them. Delirious seemed a bit comforted by that until his phone started ringing.

“Hey, Tyler,” Delirious greeted as he placed his phone down after pressing the speaker button.

“Yo,” Wildcat answered, his usual gruff voice evened out into a more smooth familiarity, “Lui and Nogla have been gone for an hour and we’re hoping for an update soon. You two should head over to where Moo, SMii7y, and Kryoz are.” 

“Okay,” Evan said.

Wildcat told them where to go, and it takes them about forty-five minutes to get to their location. A house on the outskirts of the city. It looked nice on the outside, white with a brown roof. There didn’t seem to be anyone inside which gave them the idea to park a few houses away and walk to the back.

“Do you think they’re here?” Delirious whispered as Evan knocked on the back door.

“There’s a camera on the tree,” Evan pointed at a small black object hanging from the tree, it was obscured by the branch, and would be noticeable if anyone was looking for it. “Another one on the side of the house.” Before he could continue his observation, the door cracked open and revealed Moo on the other side, he beamed at them and let them in.

It was nice and warm and smelled strangely coppery and sweet with a hint of dust. 

“Don’t mind them,” Moo waved at both Kryoz and SMii7y standing in the kitchen. SMii7y was splattered with dried blood under the yellow light. He was wiping it off with a bunch of paper towels. He grinned at them in a sickly manner with his boyish face. No one would’ve expected someone like SMii7y to be an assassin, and not the type who liked to viscerate his targets.

Kryoz was sitting down, cleaning his and SMii7y’s guns. There was a box of candies and sugar cookies beside the equipment, and it was probably why the coppery of the blood hadn’t overwhelmed the room. Evan wasn’t as keen to take any when SMii7y dipped his hand in the box and took one out.

Moo sat down across from Kryoz and had a thin black laptop open. “The negotiations are still going on.”

“Taking forever,” Kryoz commented, finishing one part of the gun and placing it down before reaching for another.

“We’re a little skeptical about this,” SMii7y said, taking another bite of the sugar cookie.

“What about the others?” Delirious asked while Evan nudged Moo to get out of the way so he could check the computer.

“Holding out until Lui gives them the green light,” Kryoz said.

“Great,” Delirious said under his breath. 

SMii7y chuckled, “Those Serpent bastards might have reinforcements on the way and our friends might even be dead, they’re just waiting for the rest of us to die.”

Evan hardly listened to their conversations while using the coordinates he had earlier to locate Panda, Ohm, and Brian. “What has Tyler been doing all this time?”

“Trying to get to Brian,” Kryoz answered, “but he’s having his own issues when he’s doing it by himself, I’m pretty sure the last time we talked to him, he was staking out the building where the assholes are keeping Brian.”

“The locations could’ve changed by now,” Evan said, finding this annoying. “Lui has his hands full with Serpent, but if I can figure out where they were last, I might be able to find them within...an hour, maybe two.”

SMii7y sighed, looking restless as he reached for yet another cookie. “I’ll go for Panda if it makes time go a bit faster…but Lui says we shouldn’t be wandering around in case Serpent has the entire area scoped out.”

“I don’t care,” Evan told him, earning a smirk from SMii7y. “Lui had his chance, and if he’s scared that some of us are going to die, then that’s his weakness, if anything, we’ll use him and Nogla as a distraction, for now.”

“Great,” Kryoz said, looking up and giving a thin smile, “I’ll go with SMii7y.”

“Fuck off,” SMii7y said, kicking the back of Kryoz’s chair, “you’re always in my damn way.”

Kryoz rolled his eyes, a smirk firm on his lips as he stood up and towered over SMii7y who was glaring up at him. “Oh, SMii7y, I thought you liked it when I come.”

“You’re all so disorganized,” the shadow chuckled. “When did you lose your edge? I think you work better alone, without them, without Lui.”

“We have to find the others,” Evan said, mostly to get the shadow out of his head even if he stood a foot away from him, leaned against the fridge while his friends flirted against the counter.

Moo let out a dramatic sigh and shot a glare at SMii7y and Kryoz. “Go find Panda, from Evan’s coordinates, he was last seen at a military airport.”

SMii7y pushed Kryoz away from him, “Come on, can’t we just leave him?”

“No,” Moo said, slamming his hands on the table, “we’re not leaving Panda, or the others.”

“Fine,” SMii7y said, taking the gun Kryoz assembled and stuffed a magazine into his sweater pocket. “Let’s go, John.”

“Maybe they’ll finally die,” the shadow spoke, watching SMii7y and Kryoz head for the back door to the house.

Evan checked the coordinates to Ohm and Brian. “Delirious, you should assist Tyler, and if you have to, just kill everyone in the building. It’s better that way.”

Delirious nodded, “Are you staying here?”

“Not sure at the moment,” Evan said, turning back to the computer. “I just want us to be organized until I figure out the next step.”

Delirious nodded, checking his gun and reaching for a magazine  on the table that was left behind by Kryoz. It had half a clip but Delirious didn’t seem bothered by it.

“What about Basically and Fourzer0seven?” Moo asked, arms folded across his chest. 

“Where are they?” Evan asked, looking up at Moo.

“We did get a phone call from Marcel, he went after Ohm, but we haven’t heard back from him,” Moo said. 

“I’m heading out,” Delirious said.

“If you want,” Evan said, watching Delirious disappear around the corner, “you can stay here, watch the cameras, check out the areas where the others are going, and make sure you get a call from Lui and update him about what we’re all doing.”

Moo nodded, they switched places and then Moo looked up at him, brows knitted together. “What are you going to do?”

“Exactly,” the shadow appeared again, much more like Delirious, even his voice matched without the distortion, “what are you going to do?”

“I’ll make sure…” Evan said, his thoughts coming in and out, becoming disorganized as he tried to figure out what was going on, “that the others are okay.”

“They’re all going to die. You’re going to kill them all in this attempt. They could be dead right now,” the shadow spoke, following Evan into the living room. 

“I need to figure out...” he said while trying to ignore the shadow’s words.

“Uh...Evan...something is happening,” Moo called.

“What?” Evan spun around and walked into the kitchen and Moo turned the computer towards him and Evan spotted the virus right away, including the interference of someone trying to hack into the computer. He reacted quick and grasped the laptop and smashed it on the table, the sound rung inside his ears before he dropped it hard on the floor where it lay in pieces.

“You have to get out of here,” Evan said as Moo got up, staring at the broken laptop.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know yet, but it’s better if we separated,” Evan said, pulling Moo out of the kitchen, past the living room, he reached for the door knob and pulled it open. The cold air outside hit them as Moo closed the door and they walked toward the alley. That’s where he let go of Moo’s arm. “Phone Delirious, tell him to pick you up a few blocks from here, and get him to call Lui. If anything, this is becoming a serious problem…”

Moo stared at Evan, a worried expression plastered on his face as he said, “What are going to do exactly?”

Evan glanced to the house and gave Moo a simple reassuring smile. “I’ll burn everything in the house, by the time I’m finished, you’ll be long gone.” He knew Moo wasn’t buying what he was saying, and decided to try to at least reassure him without the fake smile. “I’ll be fine, Brock, I promise.”

Moo nodded slowly. “Okay, if you say so, just...contact us once you’re safe or...whatever…”

Evan watched Moo head down the alley until he disappeared in the light. He turned back to the house and walked inside where he found a lighter left by Kryoz and burned pieces of paper upon SMii7y’s blood, wiping down the excess on the counters. He picked up the used napkin Kryoz was using to clean their guns. He picked up the remains of the laptop Moo was using into the garbage and burned it before he walked out and headed down the alley, the opposite end from where Moo had disappeared too.

“That was fun,” the shadow spoke, walking side by side with Evan. “I know you love destruction the most than the cause of stability.”

“Shut up,” Evan gritted out.

“No need to lie to me,” the shadow chuckled, “remember, I’m inside your head, I know what you’re going to do, and why you had troubles lying to Brock.”

Evan took out his burner phone and smashed in the alley before stepping into the light of the street. The shadow wavered beside him, laughing as it stared back at the broken bits of his phone.

“You never did need them, you were better off alone anyways.”

“I’ll need another way to contact them,” Evan said to himself, shoving his hands into his sweater pockets. 

“Are you afraid that Delirious will betray you?”

That was an odd thing to say. Evan ignored the shadow as it hummed beside him in the way that Delirious would hum. There were things the shadow would say that made Evan almost want to believe it. He always had to fight against the words that slithered into his ears, in his racing heart, he had to push it back so it wouldn’t stay inside, becoming stagnant without a purpose.

“He wouldn’t betray me,” Evan said under his breath. He cared way too much about him, and he wished he had done something about it before their situation got worse. He had the right moment back on the beach, except the words were clustered around his own fears. He should’ve said something.

“Regret,” the shadow said in a sly tone, “is a scar upon your heart. Why continue to lie when it was right in front of you? He’s going to die, Little Owl.”

The pain in Evan’s heart forced him to stop in the middle of the empty road and sharply met the shadow’s eyes while it smirked down at him. “Fuck off! My friends are fine, they’re okay, they will be okay, but right now…” he turned away and continued walking, “I think it’s time to end this.”

Chapter Text

Evan picked up the phone on the hook and dialed a number. He listened to the ring until a familiar voice answered.

“Evan,” she spoke.

“Hello, Anna,” he greeted, “I need a favor from you.”

“Anything.”

“A vehicle, something close by.” He heard the tapping on the other line, her soft humming in his ear as he leaned against the payphone.

“A few blocks from where you are on Rose St, there’s a car in the parking lot,” she said, and told him the keycode that will allow him to get into the vehicle. 

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Evan let out a sigh and said, “This will be the last time I speak to you.” 

“Good luck, Evan,” she said, and then she hung up.

He placed the phone on the hook and walked down the street. He had once asked himself when the voices had gone silent, when the walls didn’t close in, and it was the briefest peace he had felt in a long time if he could ever live. Would he long for it, or plead for the existence of the quiet moments in his life? Would he turn on the music and sit in the sound? He couldn’t escape the senses, not the way people wanted too.

Every dark corner thickened around him, it seeped and followed, a singing rose in tandem. It crawled under his clothes he considered safe once, and burrowed inside his skin. The thoughts sunk in his brain, in his eyes, his ears, laying egg after egg. He was always afraid he was swallowing those fears, that he might choke on it, throw it up into the toilet along with everything else he had eaten, and days when he dry heaved.

How did I survive for so long without them?

Once, he didn’t know how, but now, he was getting the feeling that he did. Even with all of it, he was afraid still, but he had grown inside those fears, he had pushed himself to his feet, to sleep with the light on, to curl under his blankets, to do the basic needs of a normal life even if he cried once he returned home. Oh, how it hurt inside when he felt nothing at all, and even those days were useless.

He asked the same questions over and over. How did he survive for so long? The suicide thoughts were there, sticking into his skin like long silver pins, and he had survived those thoughts as well.

He was strong. Not in bodily strength, or even mentally, he was strong because even though he wanted to die, he also wanted to live. And he would do anything to stay away from death, from the blood that stained his hands, from the bullets going off inside his head, he would do anything to stay alive, and that’s what happens when death is so close to a human who wanted nothing more than to live. You do anything to hold onto it.

“You always hated when you did things along,” the shadow spoke, this time it was using Evan’s own voice to mock him before changing its tone to Wildcat, “Always so pathetic, needing others to save your life, to protect you from all that pitiful depressing bullshit.”

“I won't let you stop me,” Evan said.

“Come on,” it used Brock’s voice, softer than Wildcat’s, “you can hardly contain all those little bugs under your skin, you’re only going to break down again...and then what? They’re all going to die.”

“No one’s going to die.”

“Is this because of Delirious?” SMii7y with a combination of Kryoz. “Why do you care about him so much? He didn’t even come to see you when you needed him the most. He doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t acknowledge how you feel towards him...and you don’t either.”

“I’ll tell him,” Evan said, the only one affecting his heart from pounding painfully inside of him. It was his own promise, his own want that continued to push himself toward a parking lot.

“You always run from them,” the shadow said in Lui’s voice before shifting to Basically. “Why do you think this is any different from before? The enemy isn’t Serpent, it’s yourself, the antagonist of the story is how selfish you can be when all you do is cry.”

“I’m not letting that hold me back,” Evan said. He grinned as he found the car Anna had picked for him. A beautiful yellow and black car sitting beside a few others, but it was one of its kind. He pressed the keycode into the pad on the side and the lock came loose, he pulled the door open. “I’m better...I know I am.” He sat down in the driver’s seat, closing the door and starting up the car.

“Why?” the shadow asked in Delirious’ voice as it smirked at him in the passenger seat. “Why won’t you listen to me? You know I’m right.”

Evan looked the shadow in the eyes and said, “You held me back for far too long, and I may be like this for the rest of my life, but I know I can be better, I can live in a better mindset than the one I’ve been stuck in for the past three years.”

He drove out of the parking lot and down the road. The car itself drove smooth through the streets. He came to an old warehouse where he broke open the side door, pulling a latch on the floor beneath a few crates, and found a set of stairs below it. He walked down to a small basement, but found equipment covered in dust. No one had come down there in a long time, and not many knew about it.

Evan picked up a few guns, some magazines, a knife. He needed to be prepared for what he was going to do, he needed to be if this was going to work.

To his surprise, there’s even a laptop hidden inside a desk. He took it out, wiped off the dust, and turned it on. While he cleaned off a few guns, and pushed the magazines in a pistol and a machine gun. The laptop had a passcode, and he knew Lui fixed this like he did all the others. He wrote in the code and the screen opened up to a screen with a beach and bright stars. He stared for only a moment before opening up a secure network that allowed him to hack into the city grid. He even brought up the camera system on several streets, they were laid out on the side while scrolling his mouse down upon a few of them.

“I need…the police department,” he said, opening up another screen and hacking into that section. It was a bit tight, but he did his best to get in within the limited time he had. “That should do it.” He closed the laptop after sending a false signal before heading up the stairs, closing the hatch and placing the crate back into place.

Distractions were easy, but right now, he needed something a bit bigger to lead a few out of their hiding spots. With the camera system on certain junctions, he’ll be able to watch what is happening from where he is. Hopefully they’ll take the bait by then.

While he waited, Evan used the intel he gave to Lui to hunt down Serpent on the police database, including the FBI, and any government cells. It’s sticky, but he has to get somewhere with this, and he won’t touch anything so he doesn’t accidentally set anything off.

“This will be the only time I’ll do this,” Evan said to himself inside the car. He had placed the guns in the back seat while setting the laptop on the side. He was in an odd angle, but he had to work with what he got.

“I trust you because even if something were to happen, you're one of the strong people in our group. You don't fall apart in dangerous situations." Lui was smiling while typing on the laptop. "And I'd like you to take care of them.”

Evan didn’t know why he was thinking about this now. Lui’s words came back to him, and he wasn’t sure why Lui trusted him so much. “You’re too trusting,” Evan whispered. Maybe it was a good thing he trusted Evan, even if he was wrong about him. He broke under the pressure, his friends had their problems, but Evan was the one who couldn’t handle it, at least until it came back to haunt him.

In the next few minutes, he was finished with the sequence of looking for the Serpent members. He sent out the signals for the police who were hunting down the false lead. He wasn’t sure if they’ll all understand what he wants them to do, and this might even be a bad idea, but he needed a back up in case he dies.

Evan placed the laptop on the driver’s seat and started up the car. He drove to a convenient store and bought a burner phone. He tore it from the packaging while inside the car next to the curb. With the camera system, he was also able ot locate his friends. He dialed Delirious’ number while driving away from the street.

“Where are you?” Delirious asked when he finally answered the phone.

Evan smiled at his voice before stopping the car near an empty street and getting out of the car. “I’m going to kill them, all of them.” He dug out a sniper rifle from the back seat, including a pistol and placed it in his sweater pocket, along with a magazine.

“That’s risky.”

“I know.” He closed the car door and walked up a dark hill, trying not to slip. “I sent Lui and Wildcat signals to the other Serpent members, at least the ones I was able to find on the police database. Those ones are the somewhat co-leaders of the operation, and it’d be a good thing to kill them all even if they manage to kill one of ours.”

“It’s only been forty-five minutes, Evan.”

“I know.”

“You work fast.” Delirious chuckled on the other line, and Evan felt himself ease into it.

“I don’t hear you disagreeing with my plan.”

“Well, they’ve been fucking with us for some time.”

Evan smiled, checking the gun while placing the phone down on the ground. “Talk to me.”

Location after location after location. He was able to find them by old sources and newer ones made by their fellow members who didn’t know how to shut up. The police database had a lot of dirty cops on them, he was able to grasp a few of their profiles and put them up on a bounty hunter log, hoping that after this if Evan ends up dead, that other people can do the rest of the job. Assassins were easier to locate and to Evan’s credit, he was able to manipulate the sum of hiring a few.

He needed contingency plans, one after the other. Not just one back up plan, but a few. This could go south, and even if Evan was aware of his own skills, he wasn’t sure if he’d live through it by morning.

“Tyler had gone in way before we got there,” Delirious said. “Then Moo wanted to make sure that some of the things that were happening happened in the occurrence of shit hitting the fan.”

“Did it?”

“Brian seen better days.”

“And what happened to Panda.”

“Like all the others, Panda was tortured, I’m surprised he’s still drawing breath,” Delirious let out a deep sigh. “You know SMii7y and Kryoz, they love a good blood bath.”

He needed this group who were hiding in a rather nice house to take the bait. It was the only way this was going to work the way he wanted it too. He spotted police cars appearing on the curved road leading up to the house. The bright lights made Evan smile while he looked through the scope.

He spotted one of the top windows weren’t covered by the yellow dim light, and Evan pulled the trigger. The suppressor didn’t help much, but it did stop Delirious’ explanation of how terrible SMii7y and Kryoz’ worked in regards of actually killing cleanly than leaving prints.

“That sounded loud.”

Evan sniffled, the cold air made him shiver while he pulled the trigger again. The police weren’t looking at the house, but were confused where the bullets were coming from. Evan felt for the explosive gun he had also picked up from the back seat. He placed the sniper down and pointed the gun towards the cars lined up on the side, then fired, a bright orange glow appeared from the destroyed cars, the air was hot this time as bodies laid upon the dark asphalt.

“What are you doing?” Delirious asked.

Evan picked up the phone and said, “Do you really want to know?” He took out the pistol he brought with him and almost sprinted down the hill. His feet hit the road and he killed one of the cops that was still groaning on the ground, their faces melted from the fire as blood splattered beneath them.

“Sorta,” Delirious said, uncertain. “Why are the cops not there yet?”

Evan chuckled, his heart racing at the thrill of destruction and death. “I spent some time fucking with the dirty cops. They know where Serpent is, at least the ones in the area, and they control the police.”

“All of them?”

“No, Delirious, enough of them that they’d ignore an entire house on fire until the next day when they clean it up,” Evan said, pointing his gun to the windows where he shot out one and killed a man who tried firing at him. 

“What are you doing there?”

“Making sure they don’t come after us,” Evan said softly, “I’ll call you back.” He hung up the phone and opened the door. He didn’t have time to fall back into a catatonic state, or even on autopilot. His mind was open to everything that was happening as he killed one man after the other, moving swiftly as he hid behind walls, ducked behind knocked over tables, and couches on the side, including the counters. The entire house was full of debris, and their voices punctured the air as they were desperate to kill Evan.

“What do you think you will get from all of this?” a man asked, a lot more assertive the others as one of the bodies fell, and Evan had almost stumbled back when he was barely shot in the arm. “Does your  boss know what you’re doing here? All by yourself on a suicide mission.”

Evan’s hand is shaky as he pushes another magazine into his gun. “I know what Lui’s been doing,” he tells the leader of Serpent, “what I’m wondering is why you kept him alive for so long?”

The man laughs, raspy in tone. “He wouldn’t crack, fucking asshole.”

“Yeah,” Evan says, almost finding the conversation hilarious, “he has a thing for torture, not the way that you think, he just rather have us not reveal anything if we were ever caught up into it. Probably why everyone you kidnapped didn’t break the way that you hoped, including myself of course.”

“It didn’t belong to Lui,” the man says, all the humor gone from his voice.

“I agree,” Evan said, recalling what Lui told him about a disc he stole from the government, but it was actually a part of a different organization which was Serpent. Lui lies through his teeth, he breathes it way too much. “What I don’t agree with is that you tried to eliminate us.”

“We knew eventually he had a wildcard,” the man said, growing closer to where Evan was standing. “You have a reputation, Vanoss.”

Evan smiled, almost wanting to laugh. “You should’ve killed Lui when you had the chance.” He swiftly moved and fired his gun, the bullet sunk into the man’s forehead and he fell back upon the debris. He had almost wished for silence when he killed the rest of Serpent within the house before returning to the leader. He didn’t know him all that much, but he kept in his lane enough until Lui decided to go against government contracts that didn’t include their group. If only he was able to clean it up by himself when he had the chance to do it, and because of it, Lui almost got them all killed.

He found the man’s computer, including his phone, and destroyed it in a makeshift fire inside the kitchen. Afterwards, he got to work on the body by taking out the teeth first, burning the fingerprints, and stabbing the eyes and plopping them into the fire. By the time he was finished, he was wishing for a nice hot shower.

“They’ll probably find your identity,” Evan said, placing the bloody teeth in a small plastic bag, “but that isn’t the point of your death.” He stood over the mutilated body. “You’re a message to the others who you work for. They’ll come for us, but I hope they don’t. By then, the rest of your group and their leaders will be dead as well if this goes as planned.”

Evan walked out of the house and up the hill toward his equipment, he gathered them up and took them back to the car where he set them down, and sat inside the driver’s seat.

The shadow chuckled while sitting in the passenger seat. It looked more like Evan now, instead of Delirious. “Looks like you’re more like yourself now.”

Evan shuddered and got out of the car, and for a second he knew it shouldn’t happen, but he leaned against the car and slid down to the ground, his entire body is shaking, his hands stained with blood, clumps of it on his clothes, the smell will stay for awhile even if he washed it off, and destroys his clothes. It will stay, he knows it will, but he has no time to do this. He wiped away the tears, ignoring the blood smeared on his face and gets back into the car.

He takes a long route back to the beach, and the sun is climbing in the horizon when he reached it. He walked upon the sand, his body heavy as he sits down and watched the sun rise slowly into the sky, the turquoise fading from his view into a more silvery blue. He’s stayed for awhile, his mind blank, his body exhausted, and he has no care to think about anything at the moment.

He had done this before, many times when he smiled and laughed in fire and darkness. It cultivated him to know death like a friend, to understand that it was his. This was no different. He had lived through it all, scraping and crawling to get where he was only to end up at the same place, at least now, he was at the beach instead of inside a dark room.

“Evan.”

He got up from the sand and walked toward Delirious who looked cleaner than he felt, and before Delirious could say anything, Evan wrapped his arms around Delirious’ neck, and leaned his body against his, closing his eyes to feel the pressure ease away.

“You’re okay.”

“I guess,” Evan says into his neck, feeling safe.

Delirious holds him, and they stand quietly as the wind brushes against them and a thought reached Evan’s mind when he slightly pulled away, ignoring the way Delirious’s arms tighten, not wanting Evan to leave.

“You want to go on a vacation?”

Delirious smiled, “A long one?”

“Yeah,” Evan leaned forward and nuzzled against Delirious, really unsure of what he’s doing, but Delirious doesn’t seem to mind, “one that doesn’t really end.”

“Okay.”