a/n: I've released this without much editing or my beta's approval, hehe, but it has taken me long enough. Please enjoy. Thank you muchly.

Chapter 20

"It's about time somebody got me out of here" Sasha had begun to wonder if his father had forgotten him, or if this was a new style of torture. He could hear someone outside, unlocking the door to the room he was being held in, and couldn't stop himself from speaking. The silence of the room had become oppressive.

He'd expected Jeffrey Ashburn to have waltzed in by now to gloat some more about his plans, or at least taunt him with the fact that his brothers were sure to be lured here because he'd been caught. He'd been dreading the conversation, but at this point any conversation would be a heaven send.

After a full night tied to a table, cold and uncomfortable, all he wanted was to be at home asleep in his own bed. The creaking of the door interrupted his wistful thoughts of home, and he strained to turn his head to see who had entered.

"Ah, so you are awake," The woman standing at the door wore a white lab coat, identifying her as one of the scientists who worked for his father. It put her on par with every other scientist who had poked, prodded and experimented on himself and his brothers, so Sasha instantly disliked her.

Her attempt at a smile didn't help change his opinion of her either.

"Well, it's not easy to sleep on this thing you know," he pulled at his restraints just a bit to emphasise his point. "So? Are you going to untie me now," he squinted at her name badge, which strangely enough, she wore. Niko was an incorrigible flirt, so Sasha would have to at least attempt the part. "Miss T. Stenson. Hmm, what does the 'T' stand for?" he asked, meeting her eyes and throwing in a slow smile for good measure.

He received a forced smile in return. "It stands for Tanya. You're Nikolai, right?"

"Niko, please," he replied, "So I can call you Tanya, right, you don't mind?" He pulled lightly at his restraints again, "Or would you prefer me to call you Dr. Stenson?" She might just be a lab assistant, so he was aiming at flattering her a bit by referring to her as doctor. Hopefully he wasn't underestimating her credentials though. Either way, it was an obvious ploy to gain favour. Sometimes the trick to charm was in the apparent intent to charm.

Well, either way her smile wasn't any warmer for the compliment.

"I'd prefer it if you didn't call me by my first name, thank you. I'm here to make sure you've recovered from the blow you got to the back of your head. So please stop pulling at the restraints so I can untie you. And please don't make any sudden movements. I have a remote control for that collar of yours, and if you do try to escape I'll be forced to use it."

"Why are you only checking on me now?" Sasha asked, somewhat incredulously, "If I'd had a concussion, now would be far too late to find out about it. You've left me to sleep through possible brain oedema. I think if I was going to have ill effects from my father's hospitality it would have happened by now." Sasha had to stop himself from saying any more. Niko wasn't one for agonising over what was already done. "So? Are you going to tie me up again once you're done?"

Tanya was just reaching for his arm restraints as he asked this and he could tell from her raised eyebrow what she'd thought of his comment.

"It's best to keep you immobile," she replied.

"Yes, I'm sure it is," he chuckled. "This is really all very unnecessary, you know. I can't go anywhere with this thing on my neck. My dad could just as well give me a break and a comfortable bed while he was at it. He could maybe even sent in some breakfast, unless of course he's starving me to keep me weak?" Sasha was quite impressed with his impression of Niko's sardonic drawl. And seeing as he had Tanya here, and everyone was convinced he was Niko, maybe he could find out what was going on. That had been the plan, after all.

Tanya finished unbuckling the leather wrist cuffs finally, Walking around to the foot of the table to begin working on his ankle restraints.

"You may sit up now, but slowly, please. Make no sudden movements."

"I'm surprised you didn't bring any bodyguards in here with you t o keep me under control," Sasha said, rubbing as his abraded wrists, the prickle of regained circulation in his hands uncomfortable, "Not that I don't think you can handle yourself, but these men should look after their woman better, don't you think?"

Tanya actually looked annoyed at that, and Sasha nearly laughed as she threw off the ankle cuffs she'd just untied.

"I may be 'just a woman' but I'm capable of doing my job," she all but spat in irritation, "and I don't need a man, any man, to protect and coddle me." By the tone in her voice, he knew he'd hit a sore point. It was not so surprising, seeing as she worked for his father, and the man had close to no respect for the female gender on the best of days. She'd probably had her share of chauvinistic comments.

"That's a shame. You deserve some looking after," He grinned, trying his best to sound appropriately flirtatious. Tanya however was unimpressed at best. Okay, this was becoming pointless. He doubted his current strategy would work in his favour, and he hadn't even gotten any information out of her.

"Oh? I'm surprised you'd say that. I hear your interests lie somewhere else entirely."

Tanya was a beautiful woman, no doubt about it, but that judging look twisted it into something ugly.

"Of course you've heard. Nothing remains a secret around here does it? And who better to discuss my actions and that of my brothers than the scientists that kept and observed us as lab animals."

"Not lab animals, research subjects." Tanya supplied dryly.

"Oh? There's a difference. Do you think we had a choice? I never asked to be a test subject, thank you. Tell me, how do you justify the torture and imprisonment you put us through?"

He'd all but given up on his charming of the staff now, and he doubted he'd get her to understand where he was coming from. Getting her to sympathize with his cause didn't seem possible at this stage.

"I don't have to justify it-"

"Let me guess, it was for the betterment of mankind, right? It was for science."

"Oh? What? What do you have to be so righteous about? You're having an affair with your own brother. That is wrong on so many more levels."

"Is it? I don't see anyone being hurt by it."

"It's unnatural, disgusting." Tanya shivered in revulsion. "What I accomplish here has life changing results, results that improve the state of the world!"

Sasha had to clench his fists to keep himself seated. Tanya seemed to have completely forgotten why she was here, and his head wasn't pounding any less for the fact. Still, he didn't want to draw her attention to the fact that he was not tied down anymore.

"How normal do you expect me to be after you keep me locked up and isolated from people. The only exposure I had to other human beings was the times I had to see the scientist who frightened me. When I was inconsolable, and father wanted to calm me, or Sasha, he'd let us see each other, be in a small little room together so we could calm down and be more manageable. He bought our obedience that way. 'I'll let you see Sasha if you're good.' 'Don't make a fuss or you won't see Sasha.' Do you think that's a healthy childhood? If anything you created the opportunity for this unnatural love!"

He refused to say any more, because to say anymore would be to accept that his relationship with Niko was tainted, prefabricated, forced, bent or broken. He remembered those dark times after they'd gotten out. They'd discovered the world for the first time. They'd been made to see that the world saw their relationship as a perversion. They'd even tried to see if they could find what was considered 'healthy, acceptable partners'. The attempts were almost fatalistic though. Sasha didn't want to believe they were too broken to connect with normal people, but he did know that the only person he loved and wanted was Niko. Trying to connect with anyone else had felt dirty, repulsive.

"I don't need your approval to be with him. I'm happy the way I am: with him. If you have a problem with that you needn't stay here to talk to me, you're most welcome to leave. Send my father my regards once you're there."

Stepping out of the house and into the street, all Mikail's fears and worries seemed to settle down on him. It was almost as if being in that house had dampened his thoughts. Now as he walked it all came rushing back. Without Noah, Gideon or even Larial to distract him he remembered his dream-that-might-have-been-a-vision of Sasha getting captured. Along with his worry for Tori, guilt at once again forgetting his brothers weighed heavily on him.

Hands shoved deep into the pockets of his borrowed camouflage pants he walked with his head down, running the past few days events through his head.

Okay, first his father had showed up again in his life, and hadn't that turned out to be a disastrous occurrence. Then, as if that hadn't been enough, he'd found out his brothers had been in contact with the bastard before that. Then those goons with guns had kicked their front door in and they'd all had to run for it.

He'd have preferred it if they had stuck together and not been separated though. Instead they'd had to make a quick decision to split up. He trusted without doubt that Niko would have gotten himself and Sasha out of there. Now all they had to do was find each other again.

So then what the hell was Sasha doing alone, and in the line of sight of his father?

With a groan, Mikail realised that whatever it was, he'd probably want to hit Sasha hard over the head when he found out the reason. Sasha was a martyr, plain and simple, no matter how much they tried to stop him from acting on his self-sacrificial tendencies.

But one good thing Sasha had done was work out their emergency system.

Even before Mikail finally reunited with his brothers, Sasha had made sure they had precautions in place. Some money set aside, a secret way to communicate. They'd made their plans as water proof as they could so that they could get out of town and lose whoever might be after them.

But in these two years they'd gotten comfortable in this town. It had started to feel a little like a home. Now all their sense of security was dashed to pieces.

Would any of those idiots have tracked us down if I hadn't been here? If I hadn't been around, maybe Sasha and Niko could have lived on here in peace and quiet.

Even as he thought this, Mikail quashed the thought. There was no way he'd start feeling sorry for himself now. He had things to do first. Besides, this was his place. He wasn't the one who'd disrupted the peace. The bastards who had, though, they would pay.

Noah followed Mikail discreetly from a distance, relieved to see he didn't board any buses. He did walk quite a distance to get to a post office and its attached post boxes though. He only took a few moments to check through one of the locked mail boxes before shoving something into his pocket and leaving again.

It was around the next corner that he found Mikail leaning back against the building, apparently waiting for him to round the corner.

"Why are you following me? I can feel you watching me, you know."

Mikail's frown was fierce enough to rival the absolute lack of expression on Noah's.

"Oh? Really? That's a first." In actual fact, it was. Not since those first days had he been caught out at this cat and mouse game. He'd very quickly learnt to remain unnoticed. Threat of suddenly finding oneself deceased was a ruthless teacher.

Noah had to admit he was somewhat impressed. But only just a little.

"Yes! Really!" Mikail said, finally looking up to meet his eyes with a sigh. "You're determined to get involved, aren't you?" For the life of him he couldn't pinpoint why.

"I was just making sure you weren't out here getting yourself trapped, shot or killed. Though, with you being the main target of all this chaos, it might just solve my problems if you were." Noah admitted nonchalantly.

"Yes, Gideon would weep with joy if I did." Mikail replied equally indifferently. He turned but Noah noticed his eyes had narrowed at his words. "I'm not planning on getting myself caught or killed, so just give it up and leave me alone. I think I know how to find one of my brothers, and I can't have you tagging along when I go meet him. Strangers aren't part of the plan."

"Ah, yes, the plan. I'm here now though. I might as well be useful. You've trusted me well enough already. So?" Noah raised his eyebrow in question. To think, he was asking permission to tag along. Then again, regardless of Mikail's answer, he wasn't turning back and slinking off now.

As if sensing this Mikail closed his eyes with a pained sigh, taking a deep breath that was probably meant to be calming. The look he threw Noah was still exasperated though.

"If you interfere or cause him to not show up then I will kick your ass, you understand that?" He turned and set off down the road once more, his stride confident. He knew where to go.

"I can't believe it," Larial stared in disbelief at the screen before him, not daring to blink, not daring to believe what was displayed their.

Grabbing his cell phone from his pocket he quickly punched in a number and hit dial. The phone rang twice before it was picked up.

"You called."

The voice was quiet, husky, impatient.

"Why didn't you tell me?" He couldn't help the fact he was shouting. "I'm putting myself on the line for you here, and you don't tell me anything?"

"What's there to tell?" The voice on the other end of the line sounded almost bored with the conversation already. "Mr. Carthwright won't be on the loose for long. I'm just interested in seeing who gets to him first."

Larial couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Well, if that's all you called for then I'm rather disappointed, Larial."

"Yeah, well, I'm an information broker, not one of your advocates, not one of your retrievers. I'm doing what we agreed to, what you pay me to do. The least you could do was tell me that maniac was on the loose."

"Yes, I am paying you to do a job, don't forget it. I fully expect you to get that job done, too. You have forty eight hours to show some progress or I'll have to get someone else to do the job. You don't want me to terminate our contract do you?" And with that the line went dead, leaving Larial shaken and disorientated.

Throwing his phone down on the desk he reached for the mouse, opening a browser and got working. Instead of panicking, he'd better start using his brains and skills to get himself out of this mess.