Interlude

The Penguin & Fox,

London

Frankly speaking, he's still trying to get his head wrapped around the fact that he just got, well, kidnapped by CIA agents. So he has a legitimate excuse for not realizing how much time has actually passed. He doesn't really care much at this point anyway. Everything that happened is just so bizarre. He never thought things like this really happen in real life. Sure, there had been kidnapping attempts before because he's rich but… not like this.

"How much longer will I have to be here?" He asks for the first time since Emily—no, Agent Mary West—left. He's actually beginning to worry since he's pretty sure it's been quite a while since she left. But he catches himself and realizes he really shouldn't have to be worried about someone he doesn't even know.

The guy he previously knew as Sam looks up from the files he's reading. He seems surprised, like he's forgotten that he's still there. Sam, or well, Agent Nick James, checks his watch. "Twenty four hours, sir. It's only been six hours."

Jesus. Has it really been six hours? He's just been sitting here and doing nothing for six fucking hours. Wow. He's never managed that before. He's a self-confessed workaholic. He likes to keep busy. It's weird for him to be idle.

"When is she coming back? That—Agent West?" It feels awkward asking about her, like he doesn't know whether it's his place to ask or not. "She's been gone awhile, hasn't she?"

Agent James nods. "Yes, she has. You don't need to worry though. It's normal. She's just trying to make sure everyone's safe."

"I'm not worried." He snaps so fast.

The agent just snorts and rolls his eyes like he doesn't believe a word he's saying. That gets him irritated so fast but he doesn't say anything. "Of course you're not. I could see it in your eyes and everything." He says and Eddie thinks there's sarcasm there somewhere but he's far too annoyed to care.

The other agent, the one who introduced himself as Agent Tony Collins, is quiet in the corner, typing away in his laptop like his life depended on it. The only other time Eddie's heard about him is when one of his friends in university told him about the substitute English professor who's kind of odd. He's seen him once or twice in the cafeteria but he never really bothered to pay any attention to him.

He still can't believe he's CIA.

"So we're just gonna stay here and wait?" He asks. He's getting restless. He knows he needs to do something.

Agent James closes the file he's been reading with a long-suffering sigh and gets to his feet. "Yes, you're gonna stay here and wait. There's not much choice for you there. But we're working too." He tips his head in the direction of Agent Collins busy with his computer. "But I suppose my work can wait."

He pulls his phone out from his pocket and holds it out to Eddie like he's supposed to do something with it. "What's this?" Eddie asks, puzzled.

"Call your family… or someone you want to call." The agent says and Eddie's reminded then that his phone is in the pocket of his jacket which he left in his office when Emily—damn it, Agent West—dragged him out of there. "Tell them you're safe. Not to worry. You'd have to put it on speaker though so I can hear. I'm sorry. We're going to have to impose on your privacy for the next however many months it'll take for this to be over. It's for your own good."

Damn it. They're worse than his bodyguards. But he nods and takes the phone from his hand anyway. If nothing else, he can still assure his family he's safe. He's pretty sure they're worried now. He dials Charlie's number. It rings a couple of times before his brother picks up.

"Hello? Who's this?" Charlie asks, wary. Eddie remembers that he's calling from a different phone.

"It's me," he says immediately. "I, uh, lost my phone. I borrowed someone else's."

"Oh, man, where are you? You just suddenly disappeared. Dad said you went to your office with Emily but when we looked, you guys weren't there. Mom's worried." Charlie says quickly.

He takes a deep breath, braces himself for what to say. Agent James looks at him pointedly and he knows he can't tell his brother the truth. He could tell him part of the truth though. "I'm fine. I'm with… Emily." He tries not to sound too bitter saying the name and hopes as hell Charlie didn't catch that. "We left. We, uh—"

Before he can say anything else though, Charlie lets out a low whistle and laughs like he's so very proud of his brother. "You finally told her then? Knew you could do it."

Oh fuck. Of course he didn't know. He'd think— "What? No. Shut up." He says hastily, flicking a worried glance over to Agent James and wondering if he caught whatever it is that Charlie's trying to say. The agent's expression doesn't change though, so he breathes a little of relief.

"What? Whatever. Chickenshit." Charlie says mockingly. "So what, you're absconding? Romantic, bro. So fucking romantic." His brother adds and Eddie's pretty sure that if his brother's standing in front of him, he'll definitely punch him in the face.

"Shut up. It's not like that." He says, rather panicked. "Just… Just tell mom we're fine, okay? We'll be back soon." He knows he can't get into specifics but he supposes that should be enough to stave off his mother's worries.

"Yeah, okay," Charlie says. "Good luck with… whatever it is you're going for right there."

He resists the urge to smack himself with his palm and just says, "All right, bye," before ending the call and giving Agent James his phone back. "Thanks for letting me use your phone."

"No problem." He nods and pockets his phone again. "Agent West should be back with your own phone soon but we'll have to check it over first, make sure it's not bugged or something."

He intends to thank him, however grudgingly, because he's evidently doing his best to make him comfortable or something and he's really grateful for that. But what comes out is actually, "She told me you have field medic training."

Agent James raises an eyebrow questioningly. "Sorry, I don't—"

"That day we were mugged." He says simply. He can still remember that day clearly. He remembers he's pretty fucking amazed that she could fight. And he's seen pros fight before and she definitely looked like one, much better than one even. He supposes that should have been a red flag. "She got injured. She didn't want to go to the hospital and she said you have field medic training so she asked to be brought home."

The agent nods and sits on the chair opposite him. He shifts on the couch, slightly uncomfortable of Agent James' gaze. "We were instructed to keep as low a profile as possible. Her ID's probably good for the hospital but I guess she didn't want to risk it. Besides, it was just a minor injury."

A dislocated shoulder is a minor injury? He shudders to think what these people have to deal with on a daily basis. "Were we really mugged then or was that part of all this?" He asks, the thought just coming to him.

"No, that was for real. You wouldn't believe the teasing Agent West got for a week after that." Agent James looks like he wants to laugh but is restraining himself for some reason. "We're all surprised, really. No one gets the jump on her. And I mean no one. She must have been pretty fucking distracted."

He swallows rather nervously as thoughts of what exactly happened that distracted Agent West comes to mind. "Yeah, pretty much." He says noncommittally. They fall silent after that and it's just so damn awkward that he feels the need to fill it with words. "So… she's really dead, huh?"

He knows he doesn't need to elaborate for Agent James to know who he's talking about. The agent doesn't answer for a long time though, and when Eddie looks at him, he's got a conflicted expression on his face. But it disappears quickly when he says, "Yeah, she really is. I'm really sorry, Mr. Carlson. It was never our intention to… use her memory."

Even though he's still so fucking angry about that, the rational part of his brain keeps screaming at him that it really does make sense for them to use Emily as cover if they want to get close to him. He just shakes his head. "It doesn't matter. It happened." Really, there's nothing much he could do about it now. "And really, I don't want to talk about it now."

"If you wish."

There's something else he wants to talk about however because if he's going to be spending the next few months lying for and with these people, he's got to know some things about them. "Who is she? Agent Mary West? Why did that guy—John?—call her Julia?"

For the longest time, Agent James just looks at him. Then he says in a low voice, "You really want to know?"

"I'm actually dying to fucking know." He can see the guy hesitating, like he's not sure if he should actually tell Eddie anything. He just can't have that. "Hey, if you expect me to lie for all of you, at least give me some truths."

That seems to do the trick because Agent James sighs, running a hand over his face distractedly. "Well, that guy who was in your office? His name's not really John but no one seems to know who really is. He's been with Enoch for a long time and he called Agent West Julia because… That used to be her name… Back when she was still with Enoch."

If he was holding something, he would have probably crushed it by now. Did he just say that Agent Mary West used to be Enoch? "What the fuck?" He says, outraged. "You're saying she used to work for the people who want to kill me and you trust her?"

To his surprise, Agent James looks defiant. "It wasn't her intention to be with Enoch, you know. It wasn't exactly a dream come true for her." He sounds downright angry and Eddie doesn't know what to do with that.

"She used to work for them!" He argues. "How do you know she's not a two-faced bitch?"

"Oh because you know her so fucking well!" Agent James retaliates, looking at him as though if he could murder him right then and there, he would. He realizes it then, why Agent James is suddenly so angry, like Eddie just insulted everything that is good about the world.

He gulps down his anger because now is not the time to fight. "You're in love with her." He says so very quietly he doesn't even think the agent heard him. When he looks up at him, Agent James' face is a blank.

"I'm not," the agent says quickly, "supposed to be." He adds in a whisper and Eddie suspects it's because he doesn't want Agent Collins to hear.

It's enough of an answer though. Somehow, a few weeks ago, he would have made the same observation. Even if he didn't know they're CIA and the only time he actually met the guy and interacted with him was when he brought Agent West home on the day of the mugging. He's even spent so much time being jealous of him. Yes, he was jealous. It actually took him quite a long time to admit that to himself.

"Supposed to be? Why? Is it… CIA policy or something?" He says irritably because, well, maybe he's still a little bit jealous. Maybe.

Agent James shakes his head with a small, mocking smile like he's telling Eddie that he doesn't know shit about anything at all. "Because she killed my sister." He says without looking at him.

He could tell it's taking a great deal out of Agent James to say that. He appreciates the honesty, really, and the fact that Agent James is not treating him like a child. He just doesn't know what to do with that information. So apparently Agent West killed his sister and yet he trusts her and is even in love with her? Fuck.

"She killed your sister?" He said in a whisper, eyes wide in shock. "Why do you still trust her?" He wants to be angry on his behalf because even though he'd been jealous of him ever since he first met him, he's slowly starting to feel like he actually likes the guy and maybe, if the circumstances are different, they might have been friends.

"It wasn't her fault!" He quickly amends. "They made her do it. She would've died if she hadn't—"

He's still very much confused. "They made her do it?"

Agent James huffs in apparent exasperation. "I told you Enoch experiments on children."

Something clicks in his mind then and he suddenly gets it. "So they… experimented on her?" Somehow those words sound wrong in his mind. Experiment. On a person. It's the most inhumane thing Eddie could think of, robbing a person of the right to his or her own body.

"Give the man a fucking cigar!" Agent James says sarcastically. "She was taken when she was six. Kidnapped. She never knew a life apart from that. She did everything she could to survive. Imagine being a kid and scared out of your fucking mind, dealing with daily physical and mental torture."

He digs his nails into his palm, suddenly wanting to draw blood even though he knows no amount of pain could compare to the kind of thing Agent James described. Something that Agent West went through when she was just a child.

"Shit."

"Exactly. That John guy he was her, well the crass term would be torturer." Agent James continues, breathing deeply. "So trust me on this. She wants Enoch gone and destroyed more than anyone or anything else. She wouldn't betray the CIA or you. Besides, I get to kill her if she does."

Eddie is shocked at the way Agent James just throws that particular information casually out there. "What?" He says, dumbstruck.

"The CIA recruited me to keep an eye on her." Agent James says simply. "The CIA caught her when she was fifteen. She was supposed to be executed but, well, they had other plans for her. But they needed insurance. So they recruited me."

That is just too much information for his poor brain to handle.

"I'm guessing that's enough truth for you?" Agent James challenges. Eddie just nods. "Good, 'cause, how about you cut my partner some slack? Try not to be all high and mighty and judging when you're around her, you know? She's dealing with a lot and she's trying her fucking best to keep you alive."

He nods because even though he's still so very angry, he just can't find it in himself to lay blame on anyone. So maybe they used Emily's memory but it's possible that they didn't have any choice in the matter. Besides, they're trying to save his life.

Maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe it's something else. Everything's really fuzzy to him right now.

He still doesn't know if he can ever trust Agent Mary West again, or any of them for that matter, but he's not dumb enough to refuse to cooperate. From the little that Agent James told him about Enoch, he knows without a shadow of a doubt that they have to be stopped and if it means that he has to cooperate, then so be it. Plus, the fact that they have a hit order on him doesn't hurt his determination to take them down either.

The door opens so suddenly then that Eddie almost jumps from the couch. It's only Agent West though, so he calms down. He feels relieved that she's back and that surprises him. Agent James shoots him a meaningful look before moving away towards the table where the files he'd been reading earlier were spread out. He knows the agent just told him with a single glance that he should never repeat everything that they've talked about to Agent West.

Speaking of which, she looks cold and exhausted, rubbing her hands together for some warmth. She came out into the night still wearing the dress Mandy made her wear for the party. He feels a sudden, sharp stab of sympathy for her… and perhaps something else that he's been refusing to acknowledge ever since he found out she isn't really his Emily.

The party seems like a million years ago now.

"Here's your phone," she says, tossing something over to him.

He barely manages to catch it before muttering, "Thanks."

Agent West looks at him weirdly, like he just said something utterly unbelievable. For a second, he thinks she's going to ask him something but then she walks over to where Agent Collins is sitting and leans over his shoulder to look at his laptop. Agent James is back to reading the files on the table and there's silence in the room.

Eddie thinks maybe he can do this. Maybe he can pretend that he hasn't actually fallen in love with the woman he previously knew as Emily. Even now that he knows she isn't actually who he thought she is, the feeling still won't disappear and he hates himself for that.

So maybe he can pretend. Just pretend. That's not so hard, is it?


A/N: Just a shout out to Axiotea. I kind of left a private message on your account? Just to address some of questions from your previous review. I didn't know how to reply to it and I didn't want to put it on an A/N so I figured I'd send you a PM. I'm kind of spoiler-paranoid that way. Anyway, I hope I answered all your concerns. And thank you to everyone for reading and for all the wonderful reviews!