In the White Room

Hunter had been dying. "Cossack."

Yassen blinked. "Yes, Hunter?"

The man frowned. "I told you to leave me. How am I alive?"

Yassen set his teeth. "We have the same blood type. I saw your file."

Hunter pinched his nose. "God, you're worse than my brother."

Yassen felt an internal sort of glee. "Considering your brother is a goody-two-shoes, I take that as a compliment."

Hunter gave off a small grunt of pain and ran his hands along the stitches. "They're messy."

Yassen felt slightly defensive. "The medical extension course wasn't exactly comprehensive."

Hunter sighed and looked at him. "Where are we?"

Yassen shrugged. "The nearest hotel I could find. Don't worry, I snuck you in."

Hunter grunted as he got up. Yassen moved to help him. To his surprise, Hunter took the help. Yassen tried his best not to lean into the first touch he'd gotten in a few years. They moved toward the table where he'd sliced up some fruit. Hunter suddenly turned towards him. Yassen tried not to flinch. He was half expecting a punch. The man laid a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you, Yassen."

Yassen blinked. Hunter typically only used their codenames in unfamiliar circumstances. Yassen found himself wrapped in a hug that he ever-so-slowly returned.

Yassen had planned for a lot of scenarios, but being trapped in quarantine for anthrax with Alex was not one of them. Hunter's son was panicking. It was better to get it out of his system now. Unbeknownst to the child, Alex was safe from anthrax, along with himself. The transfusion he'd once given Hunter would have been enough to give Hunter the antibodies, which he would have passed to his son. The boy was now hysterical. Then again, they were the only two survivors of that nasty little anthrax incident...from both sides. "We're going to die! We're going to die! We're going to-"

Yassen held up his hand. "Alex, we are going to be fine."

The boy stared at him, breathing erratically. The mass death of everyone in the compound as they were both extracted by a team in HAZMAT suits probably hadn't helped. "I'm going to cry blood."

Yassen tried to interrupt. "No-"

Alex continued. His breathing was becoming erratic. "I'm going to bleed from everywhere. I don't even LIKE blood! I mean, who likes blood? That would be weird, but, oh, god, I never got to beat Tom's high score and now I can't because my eyeballs are only blood-"

Yassen supposed he should try to halt this little rant. Alex stopped. "How do you know?"

Yassen closed his eyes and inhaled. He was not remembering the deaths of his parents. He was not seeing Leo dying in his arms. He certainly was not feeling a ghost of the hug that Hunter had once given him. "I have a hunch."

Alex burst into tears. Yassen was unsure of what to do. Blubbering teenagers were not exactly his area of expertise. It was not like comforting teenagers was a critical part of his training. Alex decided for him by flinging his still sobbing self in Yassen's general direction. Yassen was fairly certain Alex was aiming for the lower bunk bed, but Yassen grabbed him anyway to prevent him from injuring his head on the top bunk. They ended up in an almost-hug with Alex sobbing into Yassen's shoulder. Yassen awkwardly patted Alex's back. There was another wail as Alex remembered he was stuck in quarantine with the man who killed Ian. Yassen had to physically restrain the child from attempting to punch him. Not that it would have landed. Eventually, Alex calmed down and went off to the top bunk. Yassen frowned and began to contemplate the possible motives and identities of the people keeping them in quarantine. It was going to be a hideously long time.

Alex awoke and felt embarrassed. He'd gone and fucking cried all over Yassen. The man who killed Ian. Alex was almost glad that Ian was dead because he had a feeling the man would rip into him for panicking and then going hysterical in a deadly situation. His eyes itched and his throat was dry. Was that a symptom or the dry air getting to him? There was a knock on their cell door. Alex wasn't even going to try to pretend that this wasn't a prison. He heard Yassen pad quietly to answer it. "What do you want for breakfast?"

Alex currently felt nauseous at seeing all the dead, broken bodies, and wasn't in the mood for fucking breakfast. Yassen tapped on the doorframe. "I will have two egg whites, scrambled, with fresh fruit and vegetables."

Alex groaned from the top bunk. "Nothing."

Yassen stopped tapping. "Alex will have the same."

Alex felt his mouth drop open. What the fuck? The man scribbled that down. "What kind of fruit and vegetables?"

Yassen quietly listed them out. "Oranges, apples, pineapple, and bananas. For the vegetables, we will have tomatoes, carrots, and radishes."

The man wrote it down. "What about drinks?"

Yassen replied. "Orange juice, please."

Alex felt his mouth working. "And tea!"

The man wrote that down. Well, at least some of his preferences were respected. "Anything else for you two?"

Yassen cut off any attempt Alex would make to order anything else. "That will be all, thank you."

The man walked off. Alex put his pillow over his face and groaned. He descended the bunk bed. "Why the fuck did you order that?"

Yassen raised an eyebrow. "It is a healthy meal."

Alex just stared at the man. "Are you kidding me?!"

Yassen's expression returned to neutral. "Not in the slightest. You are a growing boy, you need to eat healthily."

Alex felt his mouth drop open. He snapped it shut. "So, it's fine to send me to SCORPIA; it's fine to pit me against a bull; it's fine that we end up arguing in a bioweapons factory, but, heaven forbid, eating a pizza pocket for breakfast isn't fine?"

Yassen sat on the bunk bed looking...smug. "Exactly."

Alex glared. "I hate you."

Yassen just looked at him blankly. "No, you don't."

Alex rubbed his hair. "While you're at it, demand some more clothes and something to do."

Yassen got up. "I will take that under advisement."

Alex glared at the slim man. "I want snacks."

Yassen blinked. "Certainly."

Alex was suspicious. They sat in silence until their food arrived.

Yassen found Alex's current demands...amusing. He was such a child. The man was here and he had manners. "Thank you for breakfast."

It was delivered through a slat by a man in a biohazard suit. Yassen softly requested said clothing items and a few education items. "For snacks, could we get some assorted fruit juices, V8 tomato juice, dried fruit, rice cakes, assorted nuts, and dried peas."

Alex's expression of horror was priceless. The man grunted, which Yassen took to mean yes. The man disappeared down the hall. "You could order any drink in the world and you want V8 tomato juice?"

Yassen sat down at the table with his breakfast. "Yes."

Alex groaned. "I'm stuck in a cell with a health nut worse than Ian. I didn't even think that was fucking possible."

Yassen gave Alex what he hoped was a stern look. "Eat your breakfast, Alex."

There was grumbling, but the child complied. Alex was giving him glares that Yassen figured were supposed to be intimidating, but Yassen felt little more than a prickle of amusement. Then again, Alex had gone to Malagasto. "So, uh, what now?"

Yassen gave Alex a withering look. "Now, we wait for them to bring us our things. In the meantime, I suggest we examine this room more closely and then workout."

Alex frowned. "What kind of workout?"

Yassen blinked. "I would suggest one of Yermalov's yoga routines. I doubt they've changed all that much since I was there."

Alex stared at him. "Er, okay."

The room was sparsely furnished but had all of the essentials. The dry air told Yassen that the air filters were designed for quarantine. There were a small table and two chairs, a bunk bed, and a small and exceedingly plain bathroom with some essential toiletries. Yassen sighed. "The room is sealed."

Alex blurted out. "I guess we're doomed if they want to gas us."

Yassen whacked him upside the head. "Don't be morbid."

Alex glared. "You're the walking embodiment of morbidity."

Yassen felt his eye twitch. "Don't be ridiculous, Alex. I am a man."

Alex huffed. Yassen gave him the side-eye. "We will be starting our workout in fifteen minutes."

Alex's mouth twisted into a stiff line. "Fine."

Yassen glided past him. "Fine."

Why did he bother with Alex? And why had Hunter wanted to reproduce again? Yassen was surprised that Alex didn't say much as they went to opposite sides of the room.

The snacks came with their lunch order. Alex tried not to groan at the sight of dried peas. At least they had changes of clothes because Alex knew workouts weren't doing their clothes any favors. Well, they weren't doing him any favors. Yassen seemed to have little to no body odor and it was deeply unnatural. Yassen was far. Alex would grit his teeth at the thought. How was he so damn calm after all of that? They'd watched over a hundred people die at the factory at least. Alex had helped him burn the place down, but they'd been caught outside the burning facility. As far as Alex knew, the facility wasn't run by a government. Yassen seemed to have ordered slightly better food for lunch. It was still worse than Ian's health nuttery. Alex was going to snap and order some crap food eventually. "So, Alex, what do you know about the facility?"

Alex glared across the table. "Why don't you go first?"

Yassen's eyes narrowed almost indiscernibly. "I was hired to guard a facility along with some guard teams. I was not told what was inside. The point at which I realized what they were making was after you had arrived and I did not wish to give you away."

Alex sighed. "MI6 had let me off for a week with the usual shit. 'No, Alex, you can't have a weapon. Yes, we know you shoot better than all of our living agents.' Blah, Blah, Blah. Anyway, some creepy FSB dudes showed up to my house and said that their minister wanted a chat. I got 'we'll drug you with ketamine and drag you if we have to' vibes off these guys, so I went along with it."

Alex paused for a breath and drank his apple juice. "Understandable. Please, continue."

Alex wondered if the FSB was now on Yassen's shit list. "So, then I got to the minister of defense dude and he's like 'we need to know if the bioweapons threat was accurate or not from the mob dudes'-"

Yassen interrupted. "Which one?"

Alex sighed. "The name is Russian and I'm bad at that shit."

Yassen sighed. "We'll try to recreate that bit later. Continue."

Alex crossed his arms. "I told him I wanted money, back-up, and a gun, so he agreed and was like 'does MI6 not do that'-"

Yassen interrupted Alex again. "How much did he pay you?"

Alex shrugged. "I asked for five hundred thousand pounds, plus a bonus for each dead dude and burning down the factory, and he didn't even try to bargain."

Yassen stared at Alex. "Interesting."

Alex shrugged. "Look, if he's going to pay me, I'm not going to argue."

Yassen blinked. "Does MI6 not?"

Alex glared. "Uh, no. They blackmail me, remember?"

Yassen began to pace. "Continue."

Alex shrugged. "So, I found out the threat was real, because of course it is, and then it all went to shit, everyone died, and the place burned down. Pretty much a typical mission, you know."

Yassen was staring at him as though he'd just announced that he drank raw sewage. "This happens...every time?"

Alex gave Yassen a look. "It's not my fault! The compounds just look so explodeable!"

Yassen let out a noise. Alex wasn't sure what it was. Alex heard the man mutter something that sounded suspiciously like insults. "Idiots, all of them...I'm going to kill Gordon Ross." Yassen sighed. "So, we were likely picked up by FSB."

Alex shrugged. "Considering they were yelling in Russian after they chucked us into the helicopter and we aren't being executed by some gang, I assume so."

Yassen shrugged. "It would explain a lot."

Alex finished his apple juice. "Like what?"

Yassen shrugged. "The fact that we are being given what we ask for; we are being kept together and neither of us is being tortured. The FSB has hired me in the past and would likely not want to endanger a possible working relationship between the two of us."

Alex paused. "Why not?"

Yassen arched a brow. "Well, separately and together, we're both reliable mercenaries who get the job done. They would likely want to keep their options open for future contracts."

Alex frowned. "Future?"

Yassen sighed. "Yes, you didn't think they'd leave you alone, did you?"

Alex shrugged. "I...guess...not."

Yassen paced a bit more. "The minister must actually like you since we're getting the VIP treatment."

Alex raised an eyebrow and felt slightly defensive. "He does."

Yassen huffed. "Of course, he does."

Alex crossed his arms. "I'm likable."

Yassen rolled his eyes. "Go read your Japanese book."

Alex huffed. "I don't want to."

Yassen looked at him. "Does that mean you're going to forfeit our competition later?"

Alex glared. "No."

He mentally smacked himself for being easily manipulated and went back to studying the Japanese vocabulary words.

They had an uneasy peace for the next few days. Yassen was reading a book on the top bunk. Alex felt something run out of his nose and raised a finger to touch his face. The finger came back red with blood. He couldn't help the unholy shriek that came out of his mouth. Alex felt a book hit him in the head. "Ow!"

Yassen descended the bunk bed. "Sorry, you startled me."

Alex felt himself beginning to panic. "I have a nosebleed! I think I'm going to d-"

Yassen cut him off. "You. Are. Not. Going. To. Die. It's probably the dry air from the air filter."

Alex blinked. "You dropped a book on my face."

Yassen shrugged. "Accidents happen."

Alex gave him the side-eye. "Right."

Yassen narrowed his eyes at Alex. "I may be past my prime, but, if we fight, I will win."

Alex huffed. "Fine, fine."

Yassen glared at Alex. "Japanese. Now."

Alex huffed. "I want to do something else."

Yassen raised an eyebrow. "Doctor Three has a new treatise out."

Alex's mouth dropped open. "NOT that."

Alex set his mouth into a line. "How about Mandarin Chinese?"

Alex huffed. "How about some bomb blueprints?"

Yassen retorted. "Gordon has rotted enough of your brain. You need explosives lessons like you need a bullet in the eye."

Alex glared at Yassen. "I happen to like Gordon."

Yassen snorted. "Of course, you do, you two should start a club. I was thinking "Pyromaniacs Anonymous" sounds about right."

Alex felt like a fish sometimes. "I am NOT a pyromaniac."

Yassen raised an eyebrow. "Can you explain why every single one of your missions ends with a giant explosion, then?"

Alex felt defensive. "They were strategically necessary!"

Yassen kept looking at Alex. "They were?"

Alex snapped. "Yes, yes, they were!"

Yassen huffed. "I think we will start our next lesson with the definition of "strategically necessary". I think you will find my version illuminating."

Alex gave him a look. "You're not even in my top five most exciting teachers."

Yassen sat down and opened his book. Alex was pretty sure he was feigning nonchalance. "I said illuminating, not exciting. It is not like we have enough matches and flammable material for an exciting lesson."

Alex squinted at Yassen. "I resent that."

Yassen flipped a page in his book. "Well, that is just too bad, Alex."

Alex mentally groaned. Yassen seemed immune to Alex's attempts to piss him off. Alex was bored. Provoking Yassen into a fight wouldn't exactly be an extremely safe option, but it would be less boring than endless Japanese. "But Yassen-"

Yassen cut him off. "Why don't you start on the good doctor's treatise. He has a lovely section on burns."

Alex barely resisted a shudder. "I think Japanese is great, thanks."

Yassen said something in Russian that Alex thought sounded like "that's what I thought".

Yassen reflected that Alex seemed to be in a defiant mood lately. He wasn't sure what had brought it on. "I want pizza rolls for breakfast!"

The imbecile took down that order. Yassen made a mental note to snap his neck if he could get away with it. "I will have my usual."

The man walked off to get them breakfast. "What are you thinking?"

Alex huffed. "I'm sick of eating only healthy shit."

Yassen huffed. "It's good for you."

Alex glared. "I don't care! It's not a way to live! I like the occasional unhealthy thing."

Yassen was severely tempted to roll his eyes. He refrained. "Fine."

Alex grit his teeth. "I can feel the judgment rolling off you. You know, your diet is deeply unnatural."

Yassen retorted. "Unnatural for someone who wishes to die before they're thirty, perhaps."

Alex retorted. "Some of us like eating fun things."

Yassen shrugged. "And some people are idiots who die from falling from a construction rig."

Alex sniped. "I'll bet you pushed them without a second thought." Yassen gave Alex a look. Alex glared back. Their food arrived. "If you don't promise to quit trying to run my life, I will smash one of the pizza rolls against the wall."

Alex had a suspicion that it would drive Yassen nuts. He wasn't sure why, but he got vaguely germophobic vibes off the guy. Maybe a touch of obsession? Ian had also been nutty about neatness. Yassen stared at Alex. Alex glared back. "Quit being ridiculous and stop having a tantrum."

Alex fired back. "I think I'm the reasonable one of the two of us."

Yassen stared at Alex. They continued to glare at each other. Eventually, Alex quit glaring at him. Yassen was relieved, though he would never admit it. Alex could be quite stubborn when he wanted to be. The boy quietly at his absolute garbage food. Yassen suspected he would get heartburn later, but it wasn't his problem. Alex was definitely not reminding him of Leo. There was no trace of Hunter's stubbornness in his face. Yassen suspected the quarantine was playing tricks on his mind. The blood yesterday had bothered him more than it should have. He was an assassin who had seen the blood of hundreds of people. Why should Alex be any different? Yassen sighed and made a mental note to do his meditation exercises later. That would likely take care of any lingering thoughts.

When they were finally released from quarantine, Yassen was half-expecting a meeting to happen right away. Instead, they were escorted to an (admittedly nice) room. One of the guards had the nerve to ask Alex a question. "How did you two not die?"

Yassen had already broken his neck by the time Alex had opened his mouth to tell him not to. "Yassen!"

Yassen glared at Alex. "He was impudent."

Alex raised an eyebrow. "You asked me loads of questions."

Yassen was not dealing with this right now. "That's different."

Alex snarked back. "You can't just murder people for asking questions."

Yassen raised an eyebrow. "I believe I just did."

The guard was very pale as he interrupted them. "Gentlemen, if you would kindly step away from the corpse and into your room, it would be nice."

The guard lost further color when both men glared at him and answered in unison. "Fine."

Yassen and Alex stepped into the room. "Do you recognize this place?"

Alex squinted. "No."

Yassen walked towards the window. "We are in Moscow."

Alex looked at him. "What kind of assassin voodoo tells you that?"

Yassen felt faintly amused. "The historical kind. There is also the fact that we are in the Kremlin."

Alex looked at him. "Really?"

Yassen gestured at the window. "Do you know any other places that look like this?"

Alex stepped forward. "No."

Yassen and Alex looked at each other. Yassen finally spoke. "I wonder what the hold-up is." Just as he finished that statement, there was a knock at the door. Yassen rose and gave Alex a glare that cut off any protests the boy might have had. "I will get it."