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Operation Leap of Faith

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Two months later - Hereford

 

The painting was far from finished, but Glaz was already happy with how it was coming together. After a month of having only a little time to invest in his hobby, he was quickly reconnecting with his passion for making colourful scenes. He was mostly painting from memory, the house in the background probably didn’t resemble his aunt’s cottage - where he spent so many summer vacations - that much, but to him it was just as perfect as he remembered it.

He took a break to stretch his arms and neck and observed the familiar scene unfolding around him, the Spetsnaz being back together finally. He watched with a smile as Fuze was complaining yet again about someone eating most of the halva his grandma had sent. Finka listened to him, only interrupting Fuze’s rant to ask why he was so sure the halva thief was Kapkan and not Tachanka, or Glaz, or even her. She laughed at his confusion and promised to help him catch the culprit red-handed if she could have part of the remaining treat. It seemed everyone loved the food Fuze’s grandma sent. He was about to answer Finka when Ash poked her head into the room.

“Meeting in five minutes guys, so move your asses!”

Mildly annoyed by the interruption, Glaz put away his brushes and resigned himself to continue painting later. He doubted that Six would deploy Kapkan again, even if the hunter was making good progress in the healing process. He didn’t have stitches anymore and he was training again - Glaz couldn’t have been more glad or proud. However, the sniper selfishly wished that whatever the issue at hand was, he wouldn’t have to get involved either. He was fine with short missions, but a longer operation was something he wanted to avoid. After his undercover mission, Glaz could confidently say he had his fill of drama for a while. He was still dealing with the aftermath of it all: he was still exhausted, both physically and mentally. He was dealing with sleepless nights, anxiety and remorse. The later two always came hand in hand, especially when he saw Kapkan gently touch the scar he gave the hunter. Sometimes, when he closed his eyes, he saw it again. That surprised, scared expression - maybe even disappointment. To calm his remorseful thoughts, he wanted to stay back and just help the hunter get back to normal. That was his number one priority for now.

His friends didn’t wait for him to finish putting away his painting gear, so Glaz made his way downstairs alone. The briefing room was plunged into darkness, which was odd. He looked around. Where was everyone? He turned on the lights, blinking at the harsh and sudden glare of the fluorescents. The chairs had been neatly organised in orderly rows, all facing the big box on the other side of the room. Glaz felt his stomach drop as he realised it was a casket. He saw an all too familiar body lying there. He wanted to reach out, to step closer and check, but he couldn’t move. He was frozen to his place, filled with more and more terrible thoughts. His hands started to shake.

There was a light sniffling by his side, and Glaz spotted Finka wiping away the tears from her eyes. She regarded him with a sneer. “How could you?! You traitor!”

He stood stunned as she ran away from him and towards Fuze, who put an arm around her shoulders as she sniffled again. He wanted to say something, anything, but he just couldn’t open his mouth as if his lips were frozen together as well. He spotted Tachanka by their side, shaking his head. Someone clapped his shoulder, and Glaz turned around to a face he had hoped to never see again.

“Like it or not, but you’re ours now. Once you are in, there is no way out!” Damien was snarling at him, just as the last time Glaz had seen him. 

Glaz wanted to scream that it wasn’t true, but he couldn’t speak. He had always known that sparing Damien would eventually come to bite him in the ass; it had just been a question of time. But how did a terrorist get into the base?

He suddenly noticed that Sledge, Maestro and Lion were there as well, keeping close to the other Spetsnaz and giving him dirty looks. There was a trail of blood leading from the casket to them, Lion’s hands still dripping red. The Frenchman looked pale and broken, his eyes were blank. Dread gripped his heart, whatever was going on he had a bad feeling about it.

He had the sudden urge to see what - who - was in the casket; however, Damien’s grasp was stronger than Glaz remembered, anchoring him with a painful grip. After struggling uselessly to get away from him, the sniper punched Damien, channelling all his rage and frustration. It worked, and the man let him go, yelling at Glaz that he was nothing but a traitor.

When he got there, the casket was empty, the satin padding inside drenched in blood. Not even the flower crowns could cover the metallic stench of it, there was just too much! From behind the floral arrangements, Shrike was grinning at him, white mask broken, bleeding from the stomach, right where Glaz shot her. She looked even more insane now, bloody eyes open wide, madness sparkling in them. He heard the Apple caused such thing to weak people, but Shrike had never always appeared to be in control. He should be glad to see her brought low, but Glaz couldn’t miss the way Shrike laughed at him.

“Why do you blame me for the things you did?” Her mocking expression sent Glaz into an uncontrollable rage. Looking at the woman, he reached for the knife in his pocket. Gritting his teeth, he took it out and and vowed that his time, he wouldn’t fail. The cold metal dug into his palm as he clenched his fist in fury.

Glaz vaulted over the casket, kicking the flower crowns down, and sunk the knife in Shrike’s neck with one precise and swift motion. He pulled the blade out, then, he stabbed it back again, then again, and again, until he was sure Shrike couldn’t run away. His mind was blurry, he felt blood pouring out of the wound, making his fingers sticky. He remembered this sensation. He remembered it too well. The body fell limp on Glaz’s arms as he wanted to throw it down, but when he looked down on it it- it wasn’t Shrike anymore. He collapsed to the ground, hugging Kapkan’s lifeless body against him. The hunter’s head lolled back, his skin pale and cold, glassy eyes open in eternal surprise. In pure panic, Glaz touched his face, bloody fingers leaving shaking stains on his comrade’s skin. He felt hot tears falling down his face.

No. No, no, this couldn’t be happening. He tried to shake Kapkan awake, even if deep down, he knew it was hopeless. Glaz still tried, clutching the hunter’s body and pleading for him to wake up. He buried his face in Kapkan’s chest, begging for mercy, begging for a miracle, but yet again, it was hopeless. His fingers were drenched in blood, slippery, clinging to him as a reminder of what he had done. Meanwhile, their friends and teammates circled closer and closer, cursing and blaming him for Kapkan’s death. When he looked up, everybody was standing around him, towering over him, their pitch black shadows swallowing him into the darkness. Even falling, he heard their voices whisper in his ear:

Traitor.

Murderer.

How could you, Timur?

_

Glaz opened his eyes to the near darkness of his room, heart beating irregularly in his chest as if trying to break his ribs. The weak moonlight painted the familiar surroundings in shadows, making it look almost like a different place and increasing his agitation. He gasped for air, planting his face into his shaking hands. He remembered them being bloody, but when he looked at them, they were perfectly clean. Clarity cut through his momentary confusion after a few excruciating seconds. When he realized that it was only a nightmare, Glaz relaxed marginally, sighing as the remains of the dream faded away, and he became fully aware of where he was. Especially when he saw the familiar figure lying next to him.

The bed was just big enough for two people to fit in if they were pressed close together, and the weight and warmth of Kapkan sleeping next to him was a blessing, a calming and grounding sensation to dispel his dark thoughts. As much as he would love to turn around and snuggle closer to the hunter, he didn’t want to wake Kapkan up. Both of them had been struggling with nightmares, and if his lover was sleeping peacefully for once, the last thing he would do was disturb his rest. He shuffled in bed, slowly and quietly, trying to get comfortable.

“Stop squirming and come here,” Kapkan mumbled, hand reaching out to grab Glaz’s shoulder.

He couldn’t hold back a smile, because honestly, how could he resist such an invitation? He didn’t. Glaz let Kapkan pull him closer, shifting in the narrow space available until he was lying nearly on top of the hunter, head resting on his chest. Kapkan put one hand on his head and the other over his back, holding the sniper in a tight embrace. This was one of Glaz’s favorite ways to cuddle, the steady beating of the hunter’s heart making Glaz relax and reassuring him that Kapkan was still alive and well. It was the easiest way to forget the nightmares.

“Did I wake you?” Glaz asked, still whispering, unwilling to break the calm bubble that settled over them.

“I was already awake,” Kapkan replied, playing with Glaz’s hair and caressing his back, and the sniper melted. All his leftover worries and stress disappeared, magicked away by Kapkan’s touch. Still, the implication of the hunter’s words didn’t escape him.

“You should have woken me,” Glaz whispered, tightening his hold on Kapkan. “You don’t have to go through it alone.”

“Like you woke me after your nightmare, hmm?” Kapkan snorted, and although he wouldn’t be able to see it, Glaz smiled sheepishly against his lover’s chest. It seemed they were equally stubborn. “I know you struggle with nightmares too, I didn’t want to…” Kapkan paused, searching for the right words. “You being here helps, even if you’re sleeping.”

“The same is true for me,” Glaz said, thumb tracing soothing circles on Kapkan’s shoulder. “Just knowing you’re here and alive is enough for me.”

The hunter rubbed Glaz’s shoulders, connecting the beauty marks on his skin in some elaborate pattern, and his nails raked lightly over the sniper’s scalp, making Glaz groan contentedly. Yes, laying together like this was perfection.

However, as much as he loved letting his partner pamper him, the sniper felt the pressing need to leave a kiss on Kapkan's neck. Being able to shower Kapkan in little gestures of affection was something he loved, and Glaz felt like he wasn’t truly taking all the available opportunities to do so. It was just a quick contact, lips pressing against the warm skin, but Kapkan relax under him as well, and that spoke volumes of how much the hunter liked that.

His hand was resting on the hunter’s shoulder, so Glaz started tracing his muscles, finger dancing over the skin and rubbing the small scars that littered it too. A quick stab of regret went through him when he went over the knife scar on Kapkan’s chest.

“I can feel the guilt radiating from you, so stop,” Kapkan commanded him, tightening his arms around the sniper. If only it was that easy.

Glaz reacted by pressing another kiss on his skin, hoping to convey all he felt with that simple gesture. Kapkan might not blame him for what happened, but Glaz surely blamed himself. It was difficult to forget how he nearly killed the man he loved. And although he couldn’t take away the pain he had caused, he could make them forget about it, drown the memories with new ones. Pleasurable ones. On the next kiss, he licked the skin as if he was tasting it, before he sucked a mark on the spot. He then moved a few inches to the side, alternating between kissing and nibbling the hunter’s neck.

“Mmm, I take it you don’t feel like going back to sleep?” Kapkan asked, laughing quietly. The sniper’s answer didn’t come in the form of words. Instead, Glaz kissed his neck tenderly, before biting down harder than before. 

Kapkan made a strangled sound that made Glaz’s dick twitch in interest. Drawing noises out of his usually stoic partner was one of the things he loved the most. Same with the bites and bruises they left on each other during their makeout sessions. No doubt Kapkan would retaliate and leave a fair share of marks on him if the position allowed it, but right now Glaz’s plans didn’t include letting Kapkan move. 

Hands on the hunter’s shoulders and pressing him down, Glaz’s mouth slowly moved south, leaving a wet trail of kisses in his path down the sculpted chest. He didn’t hesitate for a second when he reached the hunter’s newest scar. The skin was warm under his lips, and he could feel the hitch in Kapkan’s breathing when his lips reverently brushed the edges of the thankfully healed wound. 

While that reaction was extremely satisfying, it was nothing compared to what Kapkan did when Glaz’s mouth reached his next mark. He licked the hunter’s nipple, teasing the dusky and sensitive skin before sucking the now hardened nub. Kapkan moaned, hips bucking up in search of more friction as Glaz lavished attention on his nipple. He repeated the same process for the other one, making sure both received equal attention. 

However, as Glaz had learnt during the last months, patience wasn’t one of Kapkan’s virtues unless he was on a hunt. So it didn’t come as a surprise when Kapkan yanked at his hair, urging him to go further down. Pining his hands down on the bed, Glaz complied, pressing a line of kisses on his taut stomach and the old scar Kapkan had there, only stopping when he reached the waistband of the boxers.

Despite the ever increasing need burning through him, Glaz would be happy just to lie there, making out with his now boyfriend, holding each other until the sun came up and they inevitably would have to carry on with their normal routine. He released Kapkan’s hands to cup his face and tenderly brush their lips together, but the moment the hunter was free, he grabbed Glaz’s ass and pushed him closer. Kapkan bucked his hips, grinding his bulge against Glaz’s and kissing him with urgency. And yet, as delightful as the friction was, the playful bite on his lower lip was what made Glaz spring into action.

He backed away from Kapkan, blindly reaching for something until he turned the light on. The hunter was a feast for the eyes, laying in bed not totally naked but almost, underwear barely concealing his erection. Unable to resist, Glaz massaged his lover’s cock, tracing its outline through the fabric and making Kapkan moan.

“I’ve barely touched you yet and look at you...” It was far from a complaint; in fact, it filled Glaz with satisfaction that he had this effect on Kapkan. 

He yanked the hunter’s underwear out of the way, admiring the way his cock jutted out, begging to be touched. Glaz did so, loving its weight in his hand and the way it jumped when he rubbed his thumb under the crown. He knew how wonderful it felt to have it sliding against his own straining cock, but Glaz craved more than just that now.

“I want you,” Glaz confessed in a heated whisper.

“I want you too,” Kapkan moaned again, licking his lips and wrapping his hand around Glaz’s wrist, trying to yank him closer. “So let’s get on with it.”

Hearing Kapkan sound so needy already brought a rush of both affection and arousal coursing through Glaz. They hadn’t had many occasions to be intimate, Kapkan’s recovery had been slow and harrowing, and only recently they had started to fool around in bed again. 

“Are you sure?” Glaz asked, desperately trying to not sound too hopeful. 

While Kapkan had assured Glaz this wasn’t his first experience with another man, Glaz had preferred to err on the side of caution and take it slow, since he didn’t know how much Kapkan had actually done before or how long ago it had been. However, at the moment, his body was screaming at him to do this, and Kapkan himself seemed to be in agreement.

“I’m not made of fucking glass, you know?” Kapkan huffed, shifting his hips upwards and fucking into the hold of Glaz’s fist, which was still wrapped around his cock. “Stop being such a softie and fuck me already, or I’ll take charge and do it myself.”

It was the opposite of a threat, and Glaz was already imagining how magnificent Kapkan would look sitting astride him, bouncing on his cock. However, Glaz also knew that the hunter would need quite a bit of preparation, especially if he hadn’t done this in quite some time. Or ever. Fuck, that last thought was as arousing as it was terrifying.

Glaz swiftly shucked off his underwear and settled on the bed. “I want you to kneel over me.”

He marveled at how swiftly the hunter complied, and how he let Glaz manhandle him into proper position. Who could have imagined that a man who was usually so stubborn could become so obedient in such a short time? Only for him, because he trusted Glaz completely, and that was a dizzying thought.

In this position he had Kapkan’s cock brushing against his cheek, the tip deliciously close to his lips and already leaking pre-come. Glaz only had to do was open his mouth and lick the droplets, before sucking at the head. The hunter tried to push himself further down his throat, but he also licked a strip from tip to his balls and Glaz threw his head back against the mattress.

He kissed Kapkan’s thighs a little, sucking a deep bruise into one, causing the hunter to moan as he licked his length. Glaz squeezed tightly on Kapkan’s ass cheeks, loving how they felt under his hands, and kissed up Kapkan’s thighs to suck another mark into his cheek. He made sure the hunter would feel that when he sat down later. Lost in the pleasure of having a warm mouth around his dick, Glaz became bolder and left a kiss on his perineum, right before licking over it, feeling Kapkan’s body jerk. He was so sensitive, Glaz loved playing with him. 

Kapkan tried to keep working on his lover’s cock, taking in the head and not much further before he had to pull back again, but Glaz made it harder for him to concentrate on his task. The sniper sucked him with ease, taking him far deeper than Kapkan dared to do. At the same time, he ran a spit-slick finger over Kapkan’s hole, teasing him but not pushing in yet. The hunter would try to subtly push back to make him go in, forgetting about his lover’s erection in favor of chasing that elusive promise of relief.

“Timur…” His growl was both a plea and a warning, and Glaz decided he too had had enough of teasing games.

Retrieving the lube and a condom from the nightstand took only a moment, and Glaz left them on the bed while he knelt behind Kapkan. “If you want me to stop at any moment-”

“Do you think I’m afraid of a dick?” Kapkan interrupted him, turning his head to look at him with a sly smirk, a mix between mocking and impatient. 

A myriad of smartass comments swam in his mind, but in the end, Glaz just rolled his eyes and slapped Kapkan’s ass, watching a reddened mark bloom on the pale skin. It drew out a shocked gasp from his lover, but he could see Kapkan was far from displeased. Glaz filed away that tidbit of information for future consideration, right now he had more pressing matters to take care of.

Pouring a generous amount of lube on his hand, Glaz kissed Kapkan’s shoulder before sliding a finger inside him. There was barely any resistance, and considering the excess of lube dripping around, Glaz pushed in and out just a couple of times before adding a second digit. A tiny gasp escaped Kapkan, who rocked back on the intrusion, and Glaz felt his cock throbbing in need again. 

That other time, months ago, Kapkan had taken so well being fingered, even expressed his wish to go further. This time it was no different. The sniper worked him open, slowly and carefully, making sure to press his fingers against the right spots often enough to keep Kapkan mewling and pushing back, eager for more. His cock hung heavy between his legs, and Glaz played with it, giving it some teasing tugs when he wasn’t stroking his own erection. 

“I’m ready,” Kapkan panted, grabbing the condom and looking at Glaz over his shoulder. “Hurry up!”

“Patience,” Glaz chuckled. Hurrying wasn’t part of his plans, and although he took the condom from Kapkan, he still made sure the hunter was properly stretched and ready. Every little moan from him made Glaz burn with desire until he couldn’t take it anymore. “Lie on your side.”

Anticipation consumed Glaz as he rolled the condom down his shaft, lubing it up with quick strokes that were both divine and not nearly enough. Settling behind Kapkan, he lifted up one of the hunter’s legs while lining the tip of his cock with his entrance. He pushed in, slow and gentle, and the sensation when the head breached the hunter was indescribable. 

“Mmm, fuck,” Kapkan groaned, and he couldn’t tell if it was a good sign or a bad one.

Worried, Glaz tentatively slid back out then in again, going further bit by slow bit, until his whole length was inside that glorious tight heat. Giving Kapkan time to adjust to the sensation, Glaz shifted him carefully to be able to kiss him, slow and gentle. The fact that Kapkan turned his head to the side to kiss back, lips hungrily clashing against his, made Glaz lightheaded.

“Good?” He asked, briefly kissing Kapkan again. The hunter moaned, grinding back and encouraging Glaz to move. That was definitely a yes.

He pulled away far enough to almost slip out, before sliding back in as slowly as before. Kapkan gasped in a mixture of slight pain and intense pleasure, biting his lip and growling deep in the back of his throat for more. Glaz granted his request, withdrawing and pushing back slowly, a languid and endless slide that couldn’t be truthfully called thrusting. It was a leisurely and deliberate pace, and Kapkan seemed to love it and hate it equally. 

“Oh, yesss… right there, faster .”

Ignoring his pleas, Glaz kept his tortuous rhythm, feeling Kapkan tighten around him every time his cock rubbed over the hunter’s prostate. His eyes were closed and needy gasps escaped from his lips every time Glaz sank back into him. It was too much and not enough at once. It was the most beautiful thing the sniper ever seen. He wouldn’t even be able to paint it more perfect. As much as Glaz wanted to keep it unhurried, this was torture for him too. Part of him just wanted to fuck Kapkan until he could only scream his name. Maybe he could try to give his lover what he wanted, go just a little harder.

He pulled out slowly, waited a couple of heartbeats before sliding in again, smooth and even but with more force. And obviously he did good, because Kapkan whimpered and tightened around him, sinking his short nails on Glaz’s arm at the sudden surge of pleasure. Ignoring the slight pain on his arm, Glaz kept thrusting gently into him, until the hunter was trembling in his arms, and Glaz felt like the king of the world for putting that blissed out expression on Kapkan.

“You feel amazing,” Glaz told him, biting his lip as he felt his own climax looming closer and closer. Kapkan just whined and pushed back, making Glaz’s cock go deeper into him. “Touch yourself, love.”

Kapkan either didn’t hear him or couldn’t understand him at the moment, so Glaz took care of it for him. Pushing the hunter even closer, he held Kapkan’s leg with his arm while his hand reached lower take hold of his cock, slippery with precome, and stroked it slowly. That finally got the message through, and Kapkan wrapped his fingers around Glaz’s, both of them working on his impossibly hard cock at the same time.

“Ah, fuck… harder! Don’t.. Stop…”

Not even the end of the world could have stopped Glaz then, he was wholly focused on Kapkan’s pleasure, reveling in the way the hunter called out his name when he snapped his hips a little faster, feeling as he was about to explode as they both neared the point of no return.

In the end, it was his wrecked moaning against Kapkan’s neck what sent the hunter over the edge. Glaz felt Kapkan’s whole body tensing, back arched and his whimpers reaching a new high as his hole clenched almost violently around Glaz’s length. Overjoyed from getting to watch the person he loved completely lost to ecstasy, Glaz only noticed his own orgasm when his vision went white around the edges. He gasped, trying to fill his lungs with air, sweet relief coursing through him as his cock twitched deep inside Kapkan.

There was cum all over both their hands, and also on Kapkan’s thighs and belly, but that didn’t matter right now. Instead of the abrupt sobering that usually followed after orgasm, there was a lingering warmth inside his chest. Probably it had something to do with the person in his arms, Kapkan sighing satisfied and looking at him softly, a small smile on his lips. Holy shit, he was so gone for this man.

With as much care as he was able to muster, Glaz lowered Kapkan’s leg and slid out of him, pressing a quick kiss on his temple when he winced. Telling him to wait for a second, Glaz went to get a clean towel and dispose of the condom. Once they were both passably clean, Glaz lay down next to his boyfriend, wrapping his arms around Kapkan and kissing him on the lips again.

“See? I knew you were a softie,” Kapkan sighed dramatically, as if he hadn’t hummed contentedly at the kiss, or wasn’t currently resting his head on the crook of Glaz’s neck.

Glaz chuckled, letting the warm glow of the moment wash over him. It was peaceful, he was happy, and he was pretty sure Kapkan was too, despite his supposed complaint. That was all that mattered, they were together and satisfied. He rested his head atop Kapkan’s, and let go of any lingering thoughts.

The sun wouldn’t still rise for a couple of hours, and until then, they wouldn’t have to worry about anything. Kapkan would eventually slip away, back to his room, even if their relationship was the worst kept secret of the Spetsnaz team. But for now Kapkan was there, in his arms, breath evening out as sleep claimed them both.
_ _ _

Breakfast was always a raucous affair. Even early risers would eventually find themselves surrounded by more and more people, and the ensuing noise and chaos of having so many people in the same room.

Sipping his tea, Thatcher tried to read the newspaper while the rest of his table did their best to disrupt his concentration every few seconds. Maestro was distributing pieces of some sweet bread he had prepared, intent on becoming the resident mom and feeding everyone. The fact that he gave him food was probably the only reason Mute tolerated the Italian’s incessant chatter. Everyone knew Mute wasn’t approachable until he had at least his third cup of coffee.

Once he sat down again, Maestro barely touched his own portion of the bread, since he was more focused on reenacting a dramatic chase of some kind, while Sledge and Clash looked at him with interest. In truth, the newest additions to their group didn’t bother Thatcher much, except for when Clash insisted on contradicting and arguing against every single one of his opinions. And Maestro, well, the man was charming in his own way; but most importantly, he made Sledge happy. 

One just had to look at them, Sledge barely touching his own food because he was too engrossed making plans with Maestro for the holidays already, and the Italian was looking back at Sledge like he was the sun of his life. Ugh, they were so disgustingly cute and domestic, it made Thatcher’s teeth ache from all that sweetness. Moving his gaze away from them, he locked eyes with Smoke. Oh no.

“How did your date go, Maggie?” 

Suppressing a weary sigh, Thatcher gave him the same answer he’d been giving since yesterday. “How many times do I have to tell you, it wasn’t a date.”

“Sure, you just took a bloke out to have dinner, but it wasn’t a date, right.” Smoke grinned smugly at him over the rim of his own cup of tea, and Thatcher scowled.

“For the last time: It. Wasn’t. A. Date. I went to the pub, met Olivier on my way back to the barracks, and invited him to fish and chips since he commented he hadn’t tried that yet. End of the story.”

“You? Inviting Olivier, or anyone for the matter, to food out of the goodness of your heart?” Smoke sounded highly skeptical. “Who are you and what have you done with the real Maggie.”

Thatcher decided to ignore Smoke, for the greater good. There was no easy way to explain how much Lion had been helping him with the paperwork from their last operation. And inviting him had seemed right, a way to repay the favour. Not to mention how priceless his face had been when he declared the food was horrible, yet continued to eat while asking Thatcher how could he honestly think that was good cuisine. Thatcher freely admitted it: he had misjudged him, Lion wasn’t as terrible as he thought he would be. Of course, it didn’t change the fact that Lion could be a nuisance, but he could be interesting too. 

“That’s a lousy date,” Clash spoke up, surprising everyone at the table. “I don’t understand how he still talks to you.”

Smoke howled in laughter, raising a hand close to her and waiting for the inevitable high five from Clash. These two were always teaming up to make his life more difficult. At least he could take solace in Mute being too grumpy during the mornings to talk much, otherwise Thatcher was pretty sure he would take their side too.

“Speaking of happy couples,” Smoke tilted his head towards the entrance, right as Glaz and Kapkan came in. “Those are some really obvious ‘I just got laid’ faces. Do you think they’re fooling anyone?”

Curiosity got the best of him, and Thatcher took a quick peek at them. Both Russians seemed to be in a pretty good mood, Kapkan looked relaxed even, which was a rare sight. Still, that wasn’t conclusive evidence. Although they were always together lately, it was nearly impossible to see one without the other being nearby, and occasionally gave each other heated stares from across the room. In any case, it wasn’t Thatcher’s business if the Russians were together or not. And if it was true, at least they were a lot more discreet and subdued than the two lovebirds sitting next to him.

“Who cares what those two are doing in their free time, let them be.” Thatcher folded the newspaper and set it down on the table. The local news was pretty dull, but he liked having a real paper on his hands each morning. 

“You don’t get it Mike, Maxim is smiling . That’s freaky.”

Seeing as Smoke was intent on following with that line of conversation, Thatcher got up from his seat. He had better things to do than listening to Smoke prattle about the supposed love life of other operators. Gossip had never been to his taste.

“Aw, come back Maggie!” Smoke pouted at him, while Clash finished his sentence.

“Yeah, we can talk about Olivier again if you prefer!”

Damn them both, they really were having fun with that. Perhaps they wouldn’t have time to gossip if their training was more intensive. Yes, Thatcher decided he was going to prepare an improved work out session for them, a truly grueling one. See if they could keep teasing him if they were out of breath.

On his way out of the mess hall, he nodded to Lion, which brought an unmistakable hoot from the SAS table. Goddammit, it was like working with children! He only made that gesture for politeness sake. Although, that argument would probably hold more weight if he had acknowledged anyone else besides Lion.

Of course, there was a pretty simple explanation for that. The rest of the GIGN table had been deep in conversation, and Lion was the only one who had looked at him when Thatcher passed by. It wasn’t favoritism of any kind, that was a ridiculous idea. And the tiny smile he got in return was just mere courtesy, of course.

Thatcher wondered if Lion had the evening free. He knew of a place where they made the best Shepherd’s pie, and treating the Frenchman’s to proper British food seemed like a good idea. Only because it amused Thatcher greatly to see Lion disparage the food but eat it anyway, and his laugh when Thatcher argued back was quite nice too. But it would be an outing between colleagues, nothing else. Not a second date.

_ _ _

Amelia was staring off into nothing again. It was most curious to see her this distracted, it was the second time this morning. Six was always the perfect picture of efficiency, keeping her head cool even during a crisis. It was obvious something was bothering her.

“Are you alright?” Harry asked, reviewing the two newest file cases on his pile. The search for new operators never stopped, and determining if they would be a good fit for Rainbow, both for their abilities and ideologies, was of the utmost importance.

“I am going to miss this. And you.”

It wasn’t unexpected, yet Harry believed they had more time. He didn’t feel remotely ready to take control of Rainbow. And he would need to find someone to work with like he did with Amelia. Fuck, they made a great team, finding someone else would prove difficult.

“How soon?”

“A month. This will be my last operation as director of Rainbow,” Six answered with a fleeting smile. “Who do you think we should send?”

A test or a show of how she saw him as an equal, since he would be in her position in a few weeks? Anyway, it was a question that merited to think about. They wanted to sway the Commander of the Fortress, impress El Fassi enough so he would accept to leave the Assassin Fortress for Rainbow. So they needed both a display of force, cunning, and discipline.

“The first choice would be specialist El Maktoub, seeing his former protegée with us should help sway him. Valkyrie and Lesion get along with nearly everyone, they are good candidates too. Maverick could use some action, he’s feeling restless. And for a demonstration of discipline and experience, either Capitao or Thatcher.”

Six nodded, and Harry hoped the impressed look wasn’t just wishful thinking on his part. “You’re more than ready for this, Harry. You’ve been doing this job alongside me for a long time.”

Perhaps she was right, but Amelia surely left some big shoes to step into. She would be a formidable Secretary of State, he had no doubt, and most of all, Harry didn’t envy her new position, since she would be surrounded by snakes. Speaking of which, “How’s it going with our imprisoned Abstergo friends?”

“They’re trying to find a way out of prison, as they have been doing all these months. The evidence against them is solid, barring bribery or a breakout, they’ll spend their life behind bars.”

“And the Pieces of Eden? Are those still…?”

“Safely locked away, yes,” Six confirmed. 

In Harry’s opinion, it was a waste to keep those artifacts locked away in a vault, studying it would be much more beneficial in the long term. However, it was true that such a project was impracticable until they could guarantee the safety of everyone involved. They wouldn’t have wild experiments running unchecked and people killing each other for the Pieces of Eden, they weren’t Abstergo.

“So, team composition.”

Harry threw himself into planning, arguing with Six the pros and cons of each decision as they always did. When he was a kid, Harry fancied he could create a mathematical system to map his dreams. Utter foolishness, if he learnt something, it was that mapping the future was much more important. Rainbow’s future seemed bright right now, but it was essential to keep an eye out for unexpected trouble. And to check on all the operators, those brewing relationships could throw the delicate balance of the team into chaos if things went wrong. For their happiness, and for everyone’s sake, Harry hoped that wouldn’t be the case.

_ _ _

Abstergo, I+D Department

Project Styx Status Report

 

Following the research plan of Dr. [REDACTED], our specialists have been able to replicate a fully functioning Piece of Eden. The effectiveness of the artificial Shroud was tested on a subject with a gunshot wound to the leg and multiple contusions. The subject was completely healed in a matter of seconds.

For further details about subject Damien, see attached file nº 3, concerning his background and relocation to [REDACTED].

In regards to the second subject brought along with Damien, Dr. [REDACTED] declared subject Shrike clinically dead on arrival. Despite the use of our tested Shroud, it was impossible to wake her up. As per your request, the body was immediately prepared and sent to [REDACTED], for testing purposes. 

As the leader of the project, [REDACTED] approved the use of the Ankh, to map how the artifact works, and hopefully be able to replicate it. So far, we got positive results in waking up the test subject for short periods of time, although she remained unresponsive to verbal cues. Extensive use of the synthetic Shroud could prove useful in restoring her strength and hopefully her mind, unless recommended otherwise.

 

Awaiting further instructions.

_

Damien re-read the email a third time, wishing he could see those attached files about himself. He was curious to know what kind of reports Abstergo had about him. But that wasn’t possible. Bribing his brother’s friend to let him read any emails were his name was mentioned had been hard enough. In the end the other guy gave in, but only showed him redacted versions of those reports and emails. 

Fine, Damien still owed him big time for this, and he could understand being scared shitless of being caught doing something as suspicious as copying and distributing secret information. The people running Abstergo didn’t kid around, and they always needed new subjects for testing God knew what. These emails were good news for Damien, though. Once his fears of being used as a scapegoat for the Italy fiasco abated, Damien carefully considered his future. 

He wanted revenge, and it was personal. Idri, Glazkov, whatever he was called, lied to him, made him believe they were friends and then betrayed not only him, but the whole group. During his recovery, Damien had dreamed of a thousand ways to exact his revenge, but most of those were impractical or  would leave his brother vulnerable. So for now, Damien would lay low and start making contacts, building his own group, just in case. Besides, he never imagined they could bring back Shrike. After all, he had been sure she was dead. 

This changed everything. If there was one thing he knew for sure was that Shrike always got her way, and if she remembered anything at all, she would want vengeance as much as Damien did. Besides, Abstergo wouldn’t be using that kind of technology to resurrect her -or whatever it was they did- if they didn’t have plans for her.