Break ~ Emilio, Carhart

This site is..

Based on an original story and alternate future by Sonny & Ais called In the Company of Shadows.

The story contains..

Slash (M/M), het (M/F) and graphic language, violence and sexual situations. Not intended for anyone under 18!

Side Stories

The Beginning ~ Emilio, Sin
Minuet ~ Chingón, Gioia
Rainbow ~ Ryan
A Morning in Cedar Hills ~ Kassian, Boyd
Preface: Book 2 ~ Sin
Vanilla ~ Emilio, Carhart
Sideways ~ Emilio, Carhart
Fool ~ Emilio, Carhart
The One Left Behind ~ Blair
-somnia ~ Owen
Scrollwork ~ Vivienne


Around the Compound Stories, a Series of Events:
Incident #1 ~ Rebecca, Sin


Our AFFN profile


Written on April 05, 2009 by Sonny

Timeline: Fall 2001

Six multi-grain pancakes, two servings of scrambled eggs, five strips of bacon, a plum, a large orange juice and a cup of steaming coffee crowded Emilio's tray. And just when Zach thought he was done, his partner grabbed an empty bowl, a small box of milk and a single serve box of cheerios.

Zach looked at his own breakfast of toast, eggs and grapefruit juice and couldn't help but shake his head. "Hungry?"

Emilio didn't acknowledge him at first and just walked to the check-out, his face blank other than the way his eyebrows were drawn together over his jade colored eyes.

Zach made a face. "Okay then."

They were in the larger of the two cafeterias on the compound. The other was located in the Tower and this one was just off the middle of the main courtyard. For some reason the two major groups at the Agency, the field agents and the compound staff, had segregated the two cafeterias. For that reason, the larger one was typically overrun by field agents while the other was always full of civilian staff, analysts and doctors.

This day was no different and Zach had to admit that a bunch of field agents in one spot really did seem to turn into one long pissing contest after awhile with everyone trying to outdo each other with their rank and previous important assignments.

Normally when they came here and walked through the crowd, Emilio greeted several people and stopped to chit-chat and flirt, but now he just walked directly to an empty table and dropped onto a seat. Zach followed him and sat across the table, eyeing his partner strangely as Emilio began to shovel in his breakfast.

"What's wrong with you?"

Emilio shrugged. "Nothing. Why?"

Zach gave him a skeptical look and made a sandwich with his toast and scrambled eggs. He started to take a bite before pausing, stealing a slice of Emilio's bacon, and adding it. "You've been silent all this morning."

The other man shrugged again, shoving a gigantic forkful of pancakes into his mouth. "Just tired, I guess."

"Uh huh." Zach chewed thoughtfully. "You didn't seem tired before the briefing."

Emilio gave a long suffering sigh and flicked a brief glare at his partner. "Can you just drop it, bro?"

Zach was the one who shrugged this time, nodding, and took a gulp of his juice. But only a moment later curiosity got the better of him again. "Is it because of the assignment?"

"Holy shit, you're fucking annoying today!" Emilio snapped, slamming his fork down on the table, causing eggs to fling across and land on Zach's face. He paused in his outburst to stare incredulously before his mouth twitched and he reluctantly let out a loud laugh.

"Funny." Zach wiped the fake powdered eggs off his face and rolled his eyes. "Is it because it's a minimum four months op?"

Emilio's laughter finally died down and he sat back in his chair, expression sobering. He didn't agree but he didn't disagree either. He just made a vague sound in the back of his throat and went back to picking at his food.
"I mean, you just had a couple of months of downtime after that Poland thing. I was running my ass all around with these jerk-offs in Counter-Terror for the entire time." Zach rolled his eyes at the thought, unconsciously looking around the room to see if any of the people in question were there.

He'd been stuck on three different storms with two different teams from Counter-Terrorism. Sixty percent of them had some kind of deranged hero complex and the other 40% seemed to want to prove that they were better than him even though he outranked them in level and skill. It'd been a surprising change since he'd remembered his pre-level 9 teams being full of camaraderie and good times. But, Zach supposed, people changed when you moved up and they didn't.

After a moment he realized Emilio had no intentions of replying and he changed the subject, "What did you do on your downtime?"

Syrup oozed down the side of Emilio's mouth and Zach idly watched the golden trail until Emilio wiped it away. "Trained a lot in Russia. Russia's a good place for training for cold weather. It don't get much colder than the Arctic Circle, ya know? In my opinion they should have all of these fucks train out there. It's pretty stupid to expect someone to survive in a type of environment without exposing them to it previously. I wouldn't be able to do or withstand half the shit I can if I hadn't gotten used to sleeping on the streets and shit, waking up at the slightest sound and what not."

Carhart nodded in agreement. "They have training like that in the military called SERE. Survive, evade--"

"Resist and escape," Emilio finished, pushing the empty plate from his pancakes away and starting on the eggs and bacon. "Yeah. I mean I know Level 10 peeps get it, but there's only fuckin' two of us. Everyone else needs it too. It's dumb as hell."

Zach nodded in agreement, not really knowing why Emilio was so passionate about the way new agents were trained all of a sudden. "So what kind of training did you do out there?"

"Different shit. Mostly to improve my stamina in the cold. I stayed out in the forest for awhile and camped out. After you get used to the temperature, it's actually not so bad, even if there is only a few hours of sunlight a day." Emilio took another bite of his food, staring off into space as if remembering his training and thinking up new things to do next time to better himself.

Zach made a wry face. "I expected you to spend the whole time in some party town getting laid and doing coke."

Emilio snorted. "I can do that any time, babe. I could head over to the twins house right now and party all I want but I don't get a lot of free time for extended training so..."

Zach nodded but didn't actually say anything. The mention of the twins reminded him of that odd night when Lydia had freaked out, he'd almost slept with Ann in a high daze and all kinds of strange things had passed between him and his partner. Just the thought of it made him uncomfortable and he shifted, once again focusing on his food.

A silence settled between them even though there was noise all around, and just as it seemed as though they'd finish eating without speaking again, someone approached the table.


Zach looked up from the mission outline he'd been studying and saw a tall man standing beside Emilio's chair. Zach recognized him as a level 8 field operative in Intelligence; he was older, probably in his early forties, but had a handsome rugged look about him.

"Guy in red shirt," Emilio replied flatly, making it obvious that he didn't have any idea who the agent was.  

"Agent Morris," Morris growled. "Don't pretend you don't know who I am."

Zach raised his eyebrows at the man before looking at his partner. Now what drama was cooking up?

For all that people liked Emilio and were drawn in by his personality, there were also a large percentage of people who disliked him. They didn't like that he was a street kid from the slums of South America and Mexico but somehow managed to be the highest ranked and highest paid agent. They didn't like that he could have any woman he wanted, that he talked to superiors however he wanted, that he generally got away with anything. And then there were the guys who just thought he was a pretty boy who was probably more talk than action.

Emilio rolled his eyes. "How could I pretend? You just told me."

Morris glanced at Zach before turning his angry gaze back to Emilio. "We need to have a talk."

"I don't even know you, bro. What would I want to talk to you about?" Emilio went back to his breakfast, dismissing the other man uncaringly.

Morris' face began to turn red, his nostrils flaring as he turned his glare on Zach once again. "Can you give us some space, Senior Agent Carhart?"

Zach felt perversely pleased at the obvious display of respect the man was showing him in contrast to the way he spoke to Emilio. Emilio was just 'Vega', he was 'Senior Agent Carhart'. Ha. Take that, Emilio.

The silent gloating lasted only until Zach glanced at Emilio again and saw that the man didn't even seem insulted by the obvious slight. He continued to eat calmly, not even looking at Morris and Zach couldn't help but feel exasperated. So much for that minor victory.

"Sure," Zach answered finally, moving to stand, but Emilio shot him an irritated look and he couldn't help but pause.

On the one hand, he didn't want to get involved in whatever drama was about to unfold in front of the rest of the cafeteria. It was bad enough that he was always linked with Emilio's theatrics on joint assignments, he didn't want to get caught up in inter-Agency scandals as well.

But on the other hand, he was curious about what was going to happen and Zach had no delusions about the level of his partner's annoyance if he left. "After I finish eating, you have him all to yourself," Zach amended after a moment and settled back into his seat.

Morris looked suitably frustrated but didn't say anything out of turn to Zach, once again focusing his gaze on Emilio. "I need to talk to you about Suzie," he bit out finally, practically speaking from between clenched teeth.

"Huh?" Emilio asked blankly, still not looking at the other man. "Who?"

"Suzanna Clarkson," Morris snarled.

Emilio nodded, finishing his bacon and reaching for a napkin to wipe his hands. "Yeah, sorry, don't know her."

"Oh, you know her," Morris hissed, moving closer. "You know her really well, don't you, you little motherfucker?"

Zach sighed quietly and finished his sandwich, wishing that he could sink into the floor or at least have the balls to not care about Emilio's wish for him to, for some reason, witness this shameful display.

"Whoa dude, cojelo suave," Emilio said with raised eyebrows, finally looking over.

"Sorry, I don't speak spic," Morris replied flatly, standing up straight with his shoulders back as though he'd just hurled the most offensive insult imaginable and was quite pleased with his own repartee.

"Well I don't speak dumb-fuck-with-bitch-problems," Emilio retorted, finally pushing his chair back although he still didn't stand. "So why don't you tell me what's got your panties all twisted up and we can talk about it like men or I can just beat the shit out of you in front of all your little Intelligence buddies over there--" Emilio pointed to a table a few yards away. "--and finish my breakfast."

Morris stared at him and seemed to lose some of the bravado. Even if some people thought Emilio was all talk, it was actually hard to deny or ignore the facts. The facts being Emilio was quite well known for being the most dangerous man in hand to hand combat in the Agency. "Suzanna is my wife."

"Ah." Once again Emilio nodded, squinting at the other man. "So, what'd I fuck her or something?"

"You don't remember?" Morris demanded incredulously, voice rising in outrage at the thought of his beloved Suzanna's betrayal not even being memorable to the man who corrupted her.

"Guess it wasn't that great," Emilio told him in a near apologetic tone. "It's okay though, bro. As long as you like to tap it, don't worry about my opinion."

Zach choked on his grapefruit juice, spitting it all over the table and hacking ungracefully as he tried to ignore the uncomfortable feeling of the juice coming up his nose.

"You okay, babe?" Emilio asked, face all innocence and wide eyed concern as he turned to his partner.

"Fine," Zach replied, still gagging. "Wonderful."

"Awesome." Emilio turned back to Morris who looked on the verge of having an aneurysm. "So, my advice to you is to pick up some porn, maybe some instructional guides and she'll get better. I mean I'm a gentleman so I ain't gonna give her a whole Zagat's review or some shit but, you know, it obviously wasn't all that. Good luck though."

Morris opened and closed his mouth repeatedly, eyes narrowed into slits as his hands clenched.

Emilio stared at him with the same doe-eyed charming expression and after a moment more, turned to Zach. "My eggs are cold."

Zach stared at him, struggling to keep a straight face. "So they are..."

Morris hovered in the background like a confused tornado.

"Let's get out of here. I have a bit before I have to get home but we can chill until the afternoon, right?" Emilio asked, the question coming out more a demand than a question.

Zach struggled not to look at Morris but he couldn't help but stare at the man. He was nearly twenty years Emilio's senior and seemed so completely at a loss on how to handle him. "Uh..."

"Come on." Emilio was getting up and moving away before Zach could properly formulate a reply.

With an awkward 'goodbye' to Morris, Zach ducked his head slightly and quickly strode after his partner but not before dumping the trays that Emilio had left behind. He caught up with Emilio right outside the entrance to the building and demanded, "Why do you always have to start shit with people?"

Emilio gave him an incredulous look as he fiddled with his lighter. "Me! What the hell did I do? I was minding my own business. Were we at the same fucking table or what?"

Zach frowned, shaking his head. "You had to know she was married, dude. That's not cool."

Emilio snorted, finally getting his cigarette lit. "I may vomit if you go on with that line of conversation. Just an FYI."

"Whatever." Zach crossed his arms over his chest and stared at Emilio disapprovingly for awhile before sighing in defeat. There really was no use in trying to argue reason with Emilio when the topic was morality and especially monogamy. He doubted that anything would ever change Emilio and he honestly couldn't imagine a world where Emilio Vega behaved like everyone else. Even though Zach disagreed with his behavior a lot of the time, the world would be a much more boring place the day Emilio decided to turn his act around.

After a moment, Zach turned away and walked towards his building, knowing without asking that Emilio would follow. "Why are you so weird today?"

Emilio exhaled slowly, glancing over at Zach through the black Aviator sunglasses he'd put on. "Why do you keep saying that?"

"Just cuz you are. You didn't even completely humiliate that guy like you normally would." Zach raised an eyebrow as they crossed the long stretch of grass in the middle of the compound. "And you're really quiet. Normally I can't get you to shut the hell up."

Emilio grunted. "Just got a lot on my mind."

Zach frowned slightly and they finished walking to his apartment in relative silence.

Emilio didn't even acknowledge the guards as they entered the building which was strange in itself since Zach knew for a fact that Emilio frequently sold pot to both of them. However Emilio just walked by them as if he didn't even hear their greetings and didn't speak again until they were out of the elevator and inside Zach's apartment.

Emilio walked in like it was his own place and went directly to the refrigerator, swinging it open and staring inside contemplatively.

Zach shook his head in dismay and shut the door, automatically wiping his boots on the mat in front of the door before going further. "You just ate enough food to nourish a small country and you're still hungry?"

"I'm a growing assassin," Emilio retorted idly, pulling out a jar of strawberry preserves. He automatically pulled open a cabinet, obviously knowing his way around Zach's kitchen, and found a jar of peanut butter. "This shit ain't old is it?"

"I'm not you," Zach said dryly, going into the kitchen to sit at the table and watch his partner. "I actually pay attention to what I have in my kitchen."

Emilio dumped some of the preserves in the entire jar of peanut butter and mixed it up with a spoon. "Whatever, bro, they were three year old cookies but they still tasted pretty good. It ain't my fault that brand went out of business. I have to hold on to what I can."

"That's disgusting." Zach made a face as Emilio ate the peanut butter concoction plain. "You're like a three year old."

"A three year old with a huge cock," Emilio replied with a smirk. He took off his sunglasses and propped his feet up in the chair across from him.

"Uh huh."

"Don't believe me?" Emilio raised an eyebrow and ate a spoonful of peanut butter. His teasing expression quickly morphed into a filthy leer. "I could show it to you if you want proof."

Zach narrowed his eyes at Emilio and felt more than a little uncomfortable by the look on the other man's face. Even though he knew Emilio was joking, Emilio had a way of looking at Zach that made him feel simultaneously self conscious and bewildered. It was not a pleasant feeling and usually led to Zach getting annoyed.

"No thanks. I think I'd die happy if I never had to see your dick."

"Sure you would." Emilio continued to smirk at him with a smug expression on his handsome face.

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Zach demanded, irritation seeping into his tone and expression. He'd had enough of Emilio's insinuations and mocking sexual comments in the last few months to last a life time.

Emilio's eyebrows rose and he whistled softly, green eyes never leaving Zach's face and smirk firmly in tact. "Wow, bro, take it easy. It was just a joke."

"Yeah, whatever." Zach pushed his chair back and it screeched across the tiled floor loudly. He walked stiffly to the refrigerator and as he stared into it stonily, he was very aware of the fact that he was wasting electricity by leaving the door open for so long and that he could still feel Emilio's gaze on his back.

After a moment he grabbed a beer and shut the door, turning back to Emilio as he tried to rein in his irritation.

"You need to smoke some pot and simmer yourself down," Emilio advised sagely, still looking like he was in on something that Zach wasn't as he ate another spoon of peanut butter. "For real."

"Sometimes I really despise you."

So much for reining in the irritation.

Emilio sighed and closed the peanut butter jar, trying his best to put on a sad face and failing extravagantly because of the mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "The most passionate relationships are usually love-hate."

Zach glared at him. "Dude."

"It's true," Emilio said airily, eyes drilling into Zach's. "Haven't you ever noticed how fucking incredible angry sex is?"

Zach reddened. "No," he replied flatly.

"Oh that's right. You've only ever had sex with your wife and you two were too busy frolicking in fields of buttercups to have real down and dirty fucking. Let me guess, you whispered your love for her every time you came, huh? Never once just totally went crazy on that pussy and pounded it into next week? Didn't anyone ever tell you that the harder you ride, the more it lathers?"

Zach's hands tightened into fists and his eyes narrowed. "Knock it off, Emilio. Don't talk about her that way. I'm serious."

Emilio opened his mouth to say something but then he shrugged and thought better of it. "Fine. I was just kidding."

"No you weren't," Zach snapped in annoyance. "You just wanted to piss me off for no reason as usual."

"Maybe." Emilio sighed and threw the spoon across the room. It landed in the sink and made a loud clanging noise.

"Why?" Zach demanded, opening the beer and slamming it down on the table without drinking. "Why do you always have to be so fucking mocking and disrespectful?"

"I dunno. I'm just an asshole I guess." Emilio rested his cheek on his open hand and looked up at Zach. "I like trying to get a rise out of you."

"You know what," Zach said suddenly, annoyed beyond belief and wanting nothing more than to push his partner out an open window. "Maybe you're right to be pissed off that we're going to be stuck together for several months. At the moment I'd rather be incinerated than have to look at your stupid face for that long."

"Now that's just silly talk, Agent Carhart," Emilio replied mildly. "My face is anything but stupid. In fact it's quite extraordinary. A work of art. A completely pric--"

"Would you shut up?"


Emilio sighed tragically and ran a hand through his spiky black hair, chewing on his lower lip as he finally allowed his gaze to drift from Zach's face. They sat in silence for several moments and Emilio's mood once again shifted from teasing and amused to dark and foreboding.

"You know," he started quietly.

"What?" Zach snapped, prepared to hear something completely ridiculous and inane.

Emilio shrugged, unfazed and continued although he didn't look at Zach again. The mischievous twinkle was completely absent from his eyes and his mouth was now set in a grim line. The speed of his mood fluctuations was almost disturbing. "There's some stuff I've been meaning to tell you."

"Oh yeah?" Zach asked, not taking Emilio seriously at all as he took another gulp of beer. His fingers were wrapped around the bottle tight enough to shatter it and he constantly set it on the table for fear of that happening.

Ever since their partnership had begun he'd gone from being mild-mannered and relatively reserved to short tempered and constantly in some state of anger or aggravation. Zach didn't understand why he let his partner have such an effect on him but he supposed the reason was the same as why everyone else on the compound let Emilio run circles around them.

Emilio frowned slightly, either unaware or uncaring that Zach was still irritated. "But I can't really tell you."

That caught Zach's attention. He finally looked at Emilio with eyebrows drawn slightly together in confusion. "Wait, what are you talking about?"

"Well..." Emilio cleared his throat and sat up, wiping his palms on his jeans in an almost nervous gesture that was very unlike him. He seemed very indecisive about whatever he was thinking about and kept glancing at Zach and looking away. "It's like this, chief: I saw something I shouldn't have seen and I coulda left it alone but I'm too curious for my own good so I didn't and now... now I can't decide what I want to do about it."

"Okay..." Zach leaned forward, pushing the beer out of the way and focusing entirely on his partner. The anger had vanished in the face of Emilio's confession. "So what is it that you saw?"

"Well that's just it," Emilio replied with a shrug. "I want to tell you because you're the only person that I trust but if I end up fucking this up somehow and I get in trouble, everyone knows you're my partner so they'll try to get it out of you about whether or not you know and so it's better if you don't."

"What?" Zach shook his head, confused and concerned at the same time. "What are you telling me? Are you talking about the Agency or another organization?"

Emilio said nothing, staring at his partner evenly.

"Emilio, what the hell? Just tell me. Maybe I can help."

"I wanted to tell you," Emilio said mournfully, looking very disappointed by whatever he was thinking about. "I wanted your advice but I had to keep snooping like a dumb fuck and now I know so much that I just want to keep digging and I know if I do eventually I'll get found out. Even if I get fucked over by this, at least you won't."

Zach wiped a hand across his face, truly baffled by what he was hearing. It took him a moment to expand the already small amount of patience he had with Emilio in order to understand the purpose of this conversation at all. "Why would you bring even that much up if you're going to leave me in suspense?"

"I'm not just trying to fuck with you," Emilio snapped, suddenly defensive and looking more than a little self-conscious. He stood up abruptly and turned away, all evidence of good humor gone, made obvious by the tension in his broad shoulders.  

Emilio growled and muttered something in Spanish before looking at Zach again. "I'm just letting you know that something's going on even if you don't know what it is, see? Just so you're not surprised if something happens. Especially if it's like... I don't know. Nevermind."

Emilio broke off in frustration and stared at Zach helplessly. He looked so pitiful that Zach actually felt sorry for him even if the expression was alarming on Emilio's face. Seeing someone who was always so confident and self-assured look genuinely at a loss was strange. If the unflappable Emilio couldn't handle whatever was going on, Zach wasn't sure if he'd even be able to handle it if Emilio told him.

"Okay," Zach said after a moment, trying to be more open minded. "Just relax."

"I can't fucking relax," Emilio said bitterly. "There's so much shit going down and this mission-- you're right, I'm not ecstatic about it. I've spent time in Brighton before, it's a fucking cesspool, bro. I've lived in slums all my fucking life and I could barely get by there so I don't know how they think you're gonna manage. How they think you're supposed to blend in."

Zach looked at his partner in surprise. He hadn't expected Emilio's irritation to partially be over concern for him. If anything he had assumed Emilio was concerned for himself, over the fact that he'd be without all of the luxuries he'd grown accustomed to in the past several years.

It was slightly flattering that his partner worried for his well being but at the same time it was insulting. Did he not think Zach could do it? Did he think Zach wasn't capable of shedding the white bread military image and taking on a really gritty undercover role?

It wasn't like Zach was looking forward to an undercover stint in Brighton Community Prison but it hadn't even occurred to him that he wouldn't be able to pull it off.

"I'll be fine," Zach said shortly, a little offended. His own moods were beginning to shift just as fast as Emilio's. His partner was definitely rubbing off on him in all the wrong ways. "I can do it."

"It's not as simple as that, Zachary," Emilio told him with a hint of impatience in his tone. "It's like-- they put the worst of the worst there, bro. They'll smell cop on you ten miles away."

"I'm not a cop!" Zach denied, offended by the idea.

"Yeah but it's the exact same concept," Emilio retorted with narrow eyed irritation at Zach's inability to see his point. "Believe me, it's harder for me to accept that shit than anybody. I feel like a fuckin' sell out every day but it is what it is. We're going there to pretend to be one of them and bring them down. We may as well be fuckin' cops except we get to kill people whenever we want."

Zach shrugged grudgingly. "I guess."

They stared at each other silently for a moment and finally Emilio dropped back into the chair wearily. "Just do what I say when we're there, Zach. Just... do whatever I fucking say and don't question it. When I go there I'm gonna become a totally different person and you're gonna have to live with that and deal with it. You can't be Zach with the morals anymore, get it? That shit will get you killed, get us killed, and you better be damn positive that I'm not gonna let you bring me down."

"Ah," Zach said tonelessly, looking away. "That's what you're so concerned with. Whether or not I'll pull off my role and blow your cover. And for a minute I thought you were worried over my well-being."

Emilio made a face. "Don't be an asshole."

"I'm not."

"I worry about you," Emilio admitted with a raised eyebrow and said, completely unashamed, "but I worry about myself more. That's just the way it is."

"I never thought anything else. I know you're the most important thing in your life." Zach grabbed his beer and finally took another swig. "Is that it then? Have you talked all about whatever you wanted to talk about?"

Emilio shrugged. "Kinda. I guess."

"What now?"

Emilio just shook his head. "It's not really something I can tell you. It's... another reason why this mission is bad timing. I have other obligations in the city that I'd rather not leave unattended for so long," he said mysteriously.

"Uh huh." Zach finished the beer and got up, dumping it into the trash. "Something else you can't tell me. You wanted to talk to me about stuff you can't tell me. Brilliant. I think you just want to annoy me."

He faced Emilio again and leaned against the counter, wrapping his hands around the edge of it as he frowned down at the other man. "You know, Emilio... I don't know what it is about you but for some reason about 90% of the things you do and say just make me incredibly irritated. More irritated than I've ever been in my life."

Emilio stared at him blankly for a moment before raising his eyebrows and standing up. He crossed the kitchen and stood in front of Zach, closer than Zach was comfortable with considering the fact that he was getting aggravated enough to hit his partner once again.

"So what are you saying, Zachary?" Emilio asked calmly, meeting Zach's gaze. "You don't like me anymore?"

Zach stared at his partner and shifted slightly, not wanting Emilio all up in his face the way he was. "I'm saying sometimes you frustrate me so much that I want to hit you."

"Hmm." Emilio smirked at Zach and once again it looked like he was in on something that his partner wasn't. "Are you sure my personality is the cause of your frustration or is it something else?"

Zach didn't respond immediately but his eyes narrowed and he reached out to put a hand flat against Emilio's chest, intending to shove him away. "I don't know what that means."

Emilio grabbed Zach's wrist painfully hard, making it impossible for him to go through with the motion without a struggle. Zach knew from experience that once the two of them got into even a minor scuffle, it would quickly escalate into an all out brawl. It had happened on more than one occasion in the past.

"You know what it means," Emilio said, squeezing Zach's wrist tighter before finally shoving it out of the way. "You just want to pretend you don't."

"I don't have to pretend anything for you," Zach growled, flexing his hand and feeling more than a little perturbed by the pain that now radiated from his arm. He dragged his eyes away from Emilio and focused on the kitchen table, sorry that he'd started this argument again at all.

"I didn't say you were pretending for me, did I?" Emilio made a sound in the back of his throat that was a mixture between a scoff and an exhale of amused air. "You're pretending for yourself."

"What are you talking about?" Zach finally looked at Emilio again. Their eyes locked and the corners of Emilio's mouth turned up in a small grin before he shrugged.

"Figure it out," he advised Zach simply. "Take a break before the mission and really, really, try to figure it out. It might be better for yourself if you know what to expect in advance. Comprendes?"

"Whatever." Zach shook his head, completely mystified by whatever Emilio was talking about now. "Just go take care of whatever secret projects you have going on and stop breaking my balls."

Emilio's mouth twisted slightly and he raised his eyebrows high before shrugging without comment. He backed towards the kitchen door, still giving Zach the same strangely invasive stare. "Take my advice, Carhart. Trust me."

"Uh huh." Zach looked unconvinced.

Emilio just chuckled quietly and waved casually before turning around and exiting the apartment.

Zach stared after him blankly for a long moment before sitting down with a sigh and massaging his temples. Sometimes he just wished he could take a break from their entire partnership. His life had been a lot less complicated before Emilio Vega had come into the picture.