Vanilla ~ 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


an Emilio and Carhart back story

Written on 7/15/08 by Sonny

Timeline: March 2000

"This is getting ridiculous," General McAvoy muttered, not for the first time, to no one in particular as he tapped his index finger impatiently against the wooden table. His steely blue eyes were focused on the door as if he were willing someone to appear and when several more moments past without that happening, his glare turned on the woman sitting next to him.

"This is what we've been reduced to?" he demanded almost accusingly, as if she were responsible for the situation they were in.

Lilliana offered a one shouldered shrug, meeting his gaze uncaringly from behind her fringe of jet black bangs. "'We have been putting up with him for the past seven years, McAvoy," she said in her slight Southern drawl. "You're just going to have to get used to it just like we did."

McAvoy scowled at her darkly. "I don't see how Hank put up with this. This is ridiculous."

"You already said that," She replied calmly. "And if you're that curious as to how Hank put up with it, we could always take a field trip down to the memorial mound and ask his ashes. I heard communing with the other side is easier at the actual site of disasters."

"Shut up."

Unfazed, Lilliana looked over at the young man sitting across the table and raised her eyebrows at him. Her mouth curled into a smirk as she stared directly into his hazel eyes even as she continued to address General McAvoy. "At least we have Zachary here to make up for it. I heard he's just darling to work with."

McAvoy looked unimpressed with the recommendation. "He looks like he's twelve."

Agent Zachary--or Zach, which he preferred two hundred times more than his full name because he suspected it actually did make him sound like a twelve year old--Carhart sighed inwardly and did not respond.

It didn't bother him that the man who was apparently the new head of this division appeared to be a perpetually grouchy whiner or that they were discussing him as though he weren't sitting a few feet away. But it did bother him that unless there was another attack on the city which killed McAvoy, like it apparently had the other 60% of the Agency staff, he would be stuck with these people. He didn't even know who his Captain was going to be, but he supposed that if this unit was as special and highly classified as they'd implied it was, it was likely headed directly by McAvoy.

The people in question, however, weren't limited to the General and the R&D agent sitting at the table; it also included the person who would apparently be his partner for this assignment. The person who apparently didn't find it important enough to show up on time, or even respectably late, for his first meeting with his new partner or supervisor.

"This better be worth it," McAvoy continued to seethe. He spoke with the tone of a man who couldn't quite believe that some hooligan was making him, a General, wait. "He better be good."

"He is," Lilliana replied without hesitation.

Zach resisted the urge to roll his eyes and looked down at the table blankly. He really had no desire to participate in the conversation and he honestly did not care if that put him in a negative light; even if he wanted to speak, he had no idea what to say. He'd never been involved in such a small, almost intimate, briefing and he'd never been assigned to work with such a high ranking, albeit infamous, agent. The entire thing was particularly awkward for him and sitting directly across the table from people who were obviously expecting... something from his performance, was intimidating. He found himself wondering how turning down the promotion would go over with his superiors but one look at McAvoy' annoyed expression banished the thought from his mind.

In the months since he'd joined the Agency he'd been promoted to ranks 7 and 8 surprisingly fast, which was either a testament to his skill and background or an example of how desperate they were after the attacks that had wiped out so much of their staff. He'd just become comfortable with his position in General Stephen's division and the unit and captain he'd begun to work with before it'd been hinted at that his name had been submitted with the pool of operatives who were up for review for the rank 9 training. Everyone told him that it was rare for so many people to be promoted so fast and even that the way his training was commencing was unconventional and rushed, but he supposed that only proved his theory that it was a direct result of the attacks.

Even so, it was flattering in a way; he knew that rank 9 operatives had to have impeccable records and be considered extremely valuable and trustworthy, but at the same time he didn't know if he was up to the task. Working as a rank 9 took him out of his comfort zone because he would no longer necessarily be working with a team. The group setting had helped him adjust to working at the Agency because it was slightly reminiscent of the camaraderie he was used to from life as a US Marine. But as a rank 9, the second highest rank a field operative could achieve, he would be working with smaller groups, single partners or possibly even solo missions.

He didn't mind solo missions so much but the idea of being put on an extended assignment with one other person who he barely knew disturbed him. If it wasn't bad enough that he had a tendency to be socially handicapped, rank 9 and 10 agents had the reputations of being a little... off-color. People said the extensive undercover missions and solitude drove them somewhat crazy; they came back from assignments with odd personality changes or sometimes they even found themselves trapped in the persona they'd created for their mission.

But despite his doubts; he was already in the process of starting the training and this assignment was the first step in that direction. Even though he wouldn't necessarily be working solely in the Intelligence division with General McAvoy, pairing him with a senior agent on an upper tier assignment was the first of many trials he would have to go through during the promotion process.

"This is unfathomable," McAvoy growled. "Have someone page him."

Lilliana gave a long suffering sigh but just as she began to rise, the door burst open abruptly and the object of General McAvoy's ire walked in seemingly without a care in the world. Lilliana's mouth curved up in a small, pleased smile and she reseated herself calmly before nodding in greeting. "Good morning, Agent Vega."

"Morning, sweetheart," Emilio said with a grin and way too much charm for someone who looked equal parts sleep deprived and hung over. "When you gonna let me tie your stem in a knot?" He leaned across the table and gave her a kiss on the cheek, which she gladly accepted. It was extremely inappropriate considering the setting and the audience, but it seemed to be their routine.

"That boat sailed long ago, Vega," Lilliana replied, her voice lower as she stared at the man from under her eyelashes with a femininely flirtatious smile curving on her lips.

He winked and sprawled down in a chair. "No one rides the ship quite like me, babe." He gave Lilliana a lascivious once over before his heavy lidded eyes finally wandered over to Zach.

"You're late, Vega," McAvoy snapped gruffly, seeming even more put off by the lack of attention he was being paid.

"Yeah." Emilio didn't look away from Zach, his gaze sharper than it had been a second ago as he seemed to mentally pick apart and figure out the man who would be his new partner. "How about that."

As McAvoy seethed quietly in his seat and began shuffling papers, trying to hang on to the last remnants of his self control, Zach took the moment to look up finally and stare at the man who had the reputation of being everything from a manipulative playboy to a disrespectful instigator to the most dangerous man to walk the compound. In the brief moments he'd been in the room, it was obvious that at least two of those rumors clearly had foundations in truth. Even if Emilio had never opened his mouth, his appearance and demeanor would have told the tale anyway.

He was the complete opposite of the clean cut, professional way most agents attempted to present themselves. Everyone knew that the best way to get anywhere in the Agency was to put your best foot forward in everything from your performance to your appearance but Emilio obviously didn't think this was the case.

His jaw was covered with stubble and his eyes were bloodshot as though he hadn't slept in days. The suffocating smell of cigarette smoke surrounded him and a hint of the cloying aroma of marijuana was a telltale sign that the redness of his eyes wasn't simply from lack of sleep. There was a black rag tied around his head and he wore knee high boots with a variety of straps and buckles on them that would have seemed outrageous on anyone else but was oddly suitable on the rebellious figure he cut.

Zach could see why people thought he was disrespectful and reckless just from his clothes alone and Emilio's ridiculously good looks didn't exactly make the womanizer rumor seem any less possible.

Zach wasn't entirely sure what ethnicity the man was but his features seemed like a hodgepodge of various different backgrounds, as if someone had taken the most attractive features from various people and stuck them together all on one person's face. He had a strong masculine jaw but yet he had almost femininely full lips and cheekbones that were as high and striking as a model's. He had the natural honeyed tan coloring of someone with a Hispanic background but yet his eyes were a brilliant green that contrasted attractively with his jet black hair and long eyelashes.

It was, as had been said multiple times already, quite ridiculous. Zach had never cared much for looks or paid attention to his own but it was difficult not to feel bland and extremely uninteresting when put into such close proximity to a person who'd obviously been blessed by a God that paid more attention to making beautiful people than stopping innocents from dying in pointless wars.

Or maybe he was just being bitter.

"Hi there," Emilio drawled, lips turning up into a friendly grin even though the sentiment didn't quite reach his eyes just yet. It didn't seem as though he was being duplicitous; it seemed more that he was cautious about the new kid, of the person who would be accompanying him on certain assignments. "Zach, right?"

Zach tried not to let the surprise show on his face but it most likely did anyway. He had no idea why Emilio Vega would have any idea who he was but the likely explanation was that someone had informed him prior to the meeting. It was interesting though; despite the fact that Zach preferred an abbreviated version of his name, the fact that Emilio used it without asking seemed arrogant and it rubbed him the wrong way. "Good to meet you," He replied calmly and with little inflection.

"Sure is," Emilio replied with a smirk, green eyes still drilling into Zach's hazel ones.

Zach opened his mouth to reply but closed it when he realized that he had no idea whether Emilio was returning the sentiment or simply observing that yes, it was good for Zach that he was getting the opportunity to be in Emilio's presence. He settled for shrugging indifferently and turning away from the strange man as he contemplated his future in this unit and wondered what would happen if he begged the Marshal to be returned to his old unit in Insurgency.

General McAvoy cleared his throat loudly and glared at the two of them in annoyance. Zach dropped his gaze but Emilio simply stared back with the blandest of all disinterest he could muster.

"If you got something to say just say it, don't sit there crying for attention, for goodness sake," the senior agent drawled. "It's unbecoming of a man of your rank. For real."

Zach was almost entirely sure that the General was going to pop the vein in his head that seemed to be bulging at the moment. Either that or fly across the table and attack the younger man.

He was almost interested to see who would win that fight, if it should ever happen. Although the General was tall and well built, with an intimidating presence and gaze, for some reason Zach thought his bets would be better placed on Emilio. There was something about him that made it obvious that once the smirk and the good natured humor was gone, he was someone who should not be messed with. He was slightly shorter than the General and although muscular, a lot leaner, but he moved like a deadly cat that was ready to pounce at a moment's notice. The rumors that he was a master at various kinds of hand to hand fighting only added to Zach's confidence in the outcome of such a fight.

But it didn't happen and Lilliana began speaking about the mission they were assigned, so everyone settled in to listen although McAvoy still looked like he wanted to crack Emilio's head against the wall.

For all Zach tried to pay attention, which he usually did quite raptly during briefings, he found himself distracted. Not only was he distracted by the ever changing expressions on his new partner's face, but he was distracted by his own doubts.

Would he be able to do what was expected of him? Would he be able to put up with someone who seemed determined to be obnoxious? Would he make a fool of himself in front of his senior agent and the unit when they came in for the debriefing and Emilio explained in detail, the extent of his failure?

Zach winced at the thought and slumped forward slightly, humiliated in advance. Maybe he would just be shot on the assignment. It was seriously, the better option.

He spent the entire briefing chewing on the inside of his cheek while staring blankly down at the mission outline that was encased in a sheer plastic folder, and didn't hear a thing. By the time he realized that he should probably start listening, McAvoy was wrapping up whatever he was saying and everyone was getting ready to leave.

Feeling mildly horrified by this, Zach started to open his folder to at least get the gist of what the hell was going on, but before he could someone grabbed his shoulder and hauled him up surprisingly effortlessly once Lilliana and the General left the room.

"What are you sitting there zoning out for? We'll go to my place and discuss everything." Emilio nodded and began dragging him out the room. "I'll drive."

Zach didn't know if he wanted Emilio to drive. He didn't even know if he wanted to go to the man's house. And--wait a minute... "You want to deviate from the given outline?" He asked cautiously, going based on the assumption that McAvoy, like his old Captain, always had a preliminary plan ready before sending anyone on assignments.

"McAvoy has the imagination of chopped wood. I'll come up with something better, for sure," The other man replied confidently.

"I see..." Zach didn't know why the plan had to be imaginative but he couldn't exactly argue when he didn't even know what the original plan had been. He was struggling to remember some remnants of the conversation when something occurred to him. "Wait, drive? Where do you live?"

"Off compound. A guy can't have any kind of party here, you know?" Emilio asked rhetorically, turning around and striding out of the room now that Zach was trailing behind him.

Emilio had an interesting walk; it wasn't quite a swagger but there was something definitely cocky about it. It reminded Zach of the street thugs who used to hang around the city before the attacks hit and everyone found better things to do.

"I didn't realize partying was that imperative to rank 10 agents," Zach muttered, mostly to himself than to Emilio, eyeballing the man as he winked and smiled at just about everyone he passed. It annoyed Zach beyond belief; he felt like the unpopular goody-goody that the cool guy on campus had gotten stuck with for a school project.

"It's not. It's imperative to me," Emilio replied with a snort, leading Zach outside and to the parking lot. The sounds of drilling and hammering instantly overwhelmed them and Emilio raised his voice slightly over the sounds, "And I can't do shit here. Not nothin' fun, anyways."

"Hey, Vega! When you gonna come back down to the Barrows?"

Ignoring the double negative, Zach glanced over at a construction worker who had stopped to call out to Emilio. He knew for a fact that the men doing reconstruction on the buildings were outside contractors so it was kind of amazing that even random nobodies knew who Emilio was.

"I'm heading down there now, bro. Hit me up in a few hours," Emilio yelled back before continuing the line of conversation with barely a breath in between. "And anyways, you know they watch you right? There's cameras everywhere."

Zach wasn't naïve enough to not have known that but he didn't really know the extent of the surveillance either and quite frankly, he wasn't sure he wanted to know. Sometimes ignorance really was bliss. So instead he didn't even respond and watched as Emilio climbed into a black Cobra that seemed about thirty years old, following reluctantly.

The engine started with a loud roar and Emilio took off out of the parking lot far too fast and too recklessly, considering they were now in the middle of a construction site because of the damage the compound had taken during the attacks.

Although, the entire city was one large construction site these days and since Emilio apparently lived in the Barrows, an area that had been less then reputable before but was now a regular haven for gangs and crime, he was probably used to navigating the debris on the way there.

Zach wasn't sure what he thought of going to that particular area. In the few months since the war had met them at their doorstep, the entire city had turned into a war zone but this one was caused by the civilians. With the city in shambles, crime had risen to an all time high and not just because of the riots. It seemed as though people thought they could do whatever they wanted in the aftermath of the bombings, likely because of the severely weakened police force, and even the presence of a rather small National Guard hadn't calmed things down. And the Barrows were the heart of the crime.

Zach wasn't afraid to go there; he could more than handle himself with a few thugs, but seeing the destruction and poverty up close was not something he would relish. He knew for a fact that in the parts of the cities that hadn't been completely demolished, there were thousands of homeless people, kids, and lines that were several blocks long for soup kitchens that would only have to shut down halfway through.

It was depressing. And this situation was bad enough without making it any worse.

But before he could contemplate that further, loud Spanish music blasted through the stereo and practically deafened him, the bass pushing all intelligent though out of his head. He opened his mouth to demand that it be turned down but before he could, Emilio began singing along loudly and with a surprisingly pleasant voice.

Carhart stared at him in something akin to horror and automatically leaned forward to turn it down but Emilio grabbed his wrist and continued singing. "No llores nene que tu suerte cambiará, y ¿cuándo será?" he crooned to Zach with a wicked glint in his eyes, obviously enjoying Zach's irritation.

"A little loud, isn't it?" The junior agent finally asked, frowning slightly at Emilio. "Your bass is ridiculous. You can barely make out what he's even saying."

"Like you'd know what he's saying anyway, blanquito," Emilio retorted with a laugh.

Zach made a face at him. "He's saying his life sucks and bad things always happen but people always try to tell him it will change some day," he replied blandly. "It's practically a requirement to speak Spanish in this country these days. I had years of it in high school."

"I wouldn't know. I ain't never been to high school," Emilio replied casually, not seeming embarrassed by the fact at all. "But if you speak it, you should be able to appreciate it. Hector Lavoe-- Salsa music. It's fucking incredible. More Puerto Rican music than Mexican but it's awesome. And seeing Puerto Rican women shake their asses to it is even better. Ain't nothing better than a Puerto Rican woman with a big ass, moving her hips and dancing salsa..."

Zach glanced at the other man and couldn't quite believe the tangent they'd ended up on but it did bring to mind his previous question about the other man's ethnicity. "Are you Mexican?"

Emilio raised an eyebrow at him. "Why? Don't like chicanos?"

"Nevermind." Zach stared at him for a moment and then looked out the window again. Emilio was zig-zagging rather expertly through the destroyed road, avoiding giant craters in the street and piles of rubble that had yet to be cleared. As bad as it was he knew it would have been worse had the actual nuke dropped closer to the city center. Ground zero was much farther out and had completely obliterated the outer towns and suburbs of that area.

The actual city had been affected by the fallout clouds and the detonated bombs that had been planted all over. The enemies had been extremely thorough in making sure they still destroyed the city even after the initial nuke hit farther than they'd most likely wanted it to. "You're a very negative person, aren't you?"

Emilio stopped singing and laughed. It was a pleasant laugh and even though Zach was currently annoyed by the man, it was somewhat infectious. But Zach didn't allow the amusement to spread to him and he simply looked at the other man inquisitively. "What?"

Emilio shrugged and finally turned down the blaring music, most likely so he could hear the sound of his own voice. "Just kinda obvious that you don't know me at all, bro."

"Well, what else can I think from someone who accused me of being racist just because I asked a question based on something you said," Zach said defensively.

"I guess," the Senior agent relented, still smirking, obviously not able to go so far as to admit that someone else was right. "But it wouldn't bother me if you were, Zach. Your opinion don't mean shit to me, to be frank. I've just come to accept that all of you whitebread wannabe FBI in tidy suits and ties, all official and professional acting agents look down on me 'cause of where I came from. Kinda funny."

Zach crossed his arms over his chest and chewed on the inside of his cheek. He supposed Emilio also had a point and he couldn't deny that some of those things had also crossed his mind, although it had nothing to do with whether or not he was Mexican or whatever. It was more the fact that he'd wondered how someone with the attitude he had and the shady background had managed to go so much farther than people who constantly tried to get promoted. "I just asked because you're a funny-looking bastard and I'd wondered about your background."

"Don't be jealous, blanquito. You're just mad because I'm a sexy mysterious bastard and you look like every other white guy from Michigan." It was said in such a pleasant tone that for a moment it was hard to tell that it was an insult at all.

Zach decided not to take it personally.

"How do you know I'm from Michigan?" he asked, holding on to the 'oh shit' bar at the top of passenger side door as Emilio took a sharp and crazy turn.

"I know everything, handsome. I know all about you. About your military background and your cute little purple heart and little badges for heroism in the short time you was in the service. I even know about your family. Sorry about your wife and kid, by the way. No offense but I'm pretty sure they're better off where they are now than in this shitty world." Emilio glanced at him immediately after saying it but his expression was carefully crafted to hide what he was thinking. It could have been everything from regret at bringing it up to sly curiosity as he gauged the reaction.

But as much as the mention of them hurt, and even though he partially had to agree with Emilio's last statement, Zach wasn't going to go there. The wounds were still too open and he didn't know how he'd react talking openly about it. In the few months since her death and the death of their infant, he'd yet to fully break down and he figured it was only a matter of time. "You never answered my question," he said, changing the subject entirely.

Emilio sighed and shifted in his seat, lifting his ass up off it as he rummaged in his pocket. "Half Chicano, quarter Brazilian, quarter Ecuadorian."

"Ah." Zach nodded and thought that it made sense now. "I see."

"Ahhh, he sees." Emilio pulled something out of his pocket and Zach was not surprised, although he was slightly horrified, to see that it was a ziplock bag full of marijuana.

"What the hell are you doing?" he demanded, eyebrows drawing together as he stared, astounded, at the sheer amount of marijuana that the man was carrying around in a government facility. "You're out of your mind."

Emilio snorted and shifted his position again, drawing his knees up and clenching the steering wheel with them as he groped around the center console for a CD case which he placed on his stomach.

"What are you--"

Emilio turned the music back up, singing along once again, as he steered the car with his knees and broke up marijuana buds with his hands.

Zach turned the music down and shook his head at the other man. "I heard you were eccentric but this is ridiculous. Can you not do that now? Please."

"Jesus, Carhart, you'd think I was about to smoke some crack or something. It's just a little weed, for Christ's sake. Simmer down already before you blow your load in those neatly pressed khakis of yours." Emilio tucked the bulk of the weed away again before he started rolling a joint expertly while continuing to watch the road.

"They're cargo pants," Zach said bitterly, looking out the window. Why did they have to punish him like this? What had he done wrong to anyone in the Agency?

"Yeah, yeah," Emilio muttered and finally sat up straight, grabbing the wheel with one hand and swerving around a large crater of questionable depth since the bottom was covered with water. It'd probably turn into some kind of toxic sludge pond in the next few years if it wasn't filled.

"I'm about to hot box this bitch," he informed Zach, lighting the joint and inhaling deeply. "So you might get some contact."

"What?" The man's use of slang was nearly incomprehensible. "What are you saying to me?"

The sweet aroma of burning marijuana filled the car and Emilio continued to puff on his joint calmly, glancing over at him in mild exasperation. "This bad boy is gonna get smogged out, agent. So open your fucking window if you don't want to get a contact high."

"What's a contac--" He stopped, putting it together and figured that it probably meant he could get intoxicated off the fumes. That seemed mildly improbable although, he supposed, not impossible.

"Get it?"

"Yeah, I get it but what if we pass some stupid city cop and they smell it or something? Like at a red light or a stop sign or--"

"You're too paranoid. You have to go with the flow sometimes." Emilio glanced at him, exhaling slowly before abruptly leaning over and shoving the joint at Zach. "Here, take a hit."

"What! No." Zach shoved his hand away, staring at him in annoyance. "Fuck off with that crap."

"It will mellow you out. You're too uptight and it's starting to bug me and I wanna like you, bro. I really do," Emilio implored, looking at him with big green eyes that were most likely supposed to appear pleading.

"I find that doubtful," Zach replied skeptically, eyeing the joint as if it were going to leap across the car like a flying squirrel and squirm into his mouth.

"I do. Why wouldn't I?" the senior agent asked, his voice slightly choked as he held in some smoke. After a moment he exhaled, coughing a couple of times and squinting at Zach. "Usually they pair me up with the kind of dickheads that I just described to you a moment ago and you don't seem to be that way. You're young, cute and an easy target for mockery. We could be friends and shit. Party together. For real."

Did he think saying 'for real' would make whatever he was saying a reality? It was entirely possible in the world according to Emilio.

"Listen--" Zach started before pausing and realizing he had no real idea how to respond to that. The ridiculous childish part of him was mildly flattered that the cool guy at the Agency who was relatively well known by everyone wanted to be his friend but the professional, dedicated and admittedly goody-goody part of him was saying that it was a bad idea and that was the side of him that had gotten him as far as he'd gotten so far so why stray now?

He looked over at Emilio and hesitated again. But he didn't want to seem stuck up and judgmental like everyone else. Not if they were going to get along on this assignment anyway. "It's just not for me, okay? I don't do drugs-- I never have. My wife didn't like it."

Emilio stared at him incredulously. "I hate to be a cold-hearted bastard but your wife is dead. She must have been something else if she's still got you pussy whipped from the grave."

"Well..." Zach trailed off for a moment. He had been pretty whipped but he hadn't cared enough to be bothered by it. She was the best thing that had ever happened to him and she'd helped him and encouraged him to do everything that he'd set out to do. How could you complain or argue with someone who wanted nothing but the best for you?

"Well," Emilio interrupted, seeming to want to get through this conversation before Zach either got annoyed or sentimental. "She was one fine-looking woman so I can't blame you for being wrapped around her finger, I guess. If you believe in that kind of thing, anyway. Personally, I think monogamy is something women made up to keep men from having fun."

Zach shook his head and sighed, the sound a mixture between exasperation and reluctant amusement. "Monogamy isn't bad if you find the right person," he said, defending the practice. "And she was the right person for me. I would have done anything for her."

Emilio scoffed softly but after a brief silence he shrugged and put out the joint, stubbing the cherry in the astray. "Well, out of respect for the departed I'll leave you alone for now." He glanced over at Zach with a wink. "But I'll corrupt you sooner or later, partner. That is, if you stay my partner."

With a barely audible sigh, Zach looked out the window again. Was it that doubtful to everyone that he would last on his first rank 9 assignment or was it just doubtful that he would last with Emilio as a partner? He constantly doubted his own abilities but it still bothered him that everyone else apparently did too.

He fell silent as Emilio continued to drive and he dwelled on the issue for several moments before something occurred to him. "How do you know what my wife looked like?"

Emilio glanced over at him and started to respond, but before he could get a word out, his cell phone jingled loudly. Holding up a finger as if to tell Zach that he'd be one moment, Emilio tugged the phone out of his pocket, turning down the music with the other hand, and... and he had a peculiar reaction to whatever he saw on the caller ID.

His laid back expression quickly morphed into something else; something surprisingly serious, annoyed and even slightly tinged with what appeared to be anxiety as his eyebrows drew together and his mouth pressed into a tight line.

It was an interesting change and one that was so abrupt that it made Zach stop and wonder if the teasing, too-ridiculous-to-take-seriously Emilio was nothing more than an over-the-top act to get reactions out of him. It seemed very likely considering the fact that aside from his attitude changes, even his speech patterns had a tendency to fluctuate depending on his mood and who he was talking to. The idea irked him but it relieved him as well. And it made a lot of sense.

Emilio was generally perceived to be very talented, very dangerous, and the best fighter at the Agency. Although it was possible that someone with those credentials could always be that over-the-top, it was more likely that it was only one slice of his personality or possibly even a facade so that people would underestimate him.

In the last hour, he'd already seen three sides of the same man; the cool calculating agent with no respect for authority, the class clown and now... something else entirely.

"?" Emilio said into the phone, voice sharp as he sat up straight in his seat.

Zach studied him casually, trying not to be obvious but unable to stop himself from watching with mild fascination as the man's expressions went through a variety of changes. Annoyed, exasperated, anxious, annoyed again...

He could faintly hear the voice on the other end of the line-- speaking rapidly at times, slower at others, slightly high pitched but not terribly excited sounding. Zach couldn't make out a word of what was being said and waited patiently for Emilio's end of it.

But when Emilio began to reply, he started at first in Spanish but then with a cautious glance at Zach, he abruptly switched over to what sounded very much like some form of Chinese. Zach's eyebrows shot up in surprise and he watched openly now, impressed by the man's knowledge of foreign languages.

The conversation went on for only a couple of moments before Emilio shut the phone with a roll of his eyes and tossed it carelessly into the back seat. "Pain in the ass," he muttered more to himself than Zach.

Zach just stared at him silently, not really knowing what to say about that, before asking again. "How did you know?"

"What?" Emilio looked over at him cluelessly, still appearing distracted with the phone call, before he seemed to remember the original question. "Oh. I looked you up."

"Why would you want to do a thing like that?" Zach felt mildly violated by this information.

"I dunno. Something to do when bored and marijuana or jerking off can't cure it. It was either go find some bitch to fuck until I pass out and fall asleep or look you up on the database." Emilio smiled at him widely. "You should feel flattered that I chose you, don't you think?"

Zach shook his head slowly. "Something is seriously wrong with you."


"Why am I being punished like this?" Zach sighed heavily and leaned against the window.

"Because you're a vanilla motherfucker and needed someone to add some spice to your life, bro. Trust me on this, we'll have a great time together." Emilio nodded emphatically.

"Trust you? I don't even know you," Zach replied dryly.

"You should trust me. I'm fucking awesome, dude. This assignment is going to be a blast." As if to further emphasize his point, Emilio stepped on the gas and the car went hurdling down the narrow road, slamming into the sides of buildings as he spun the wheel and took a sharp turn around a construction site.

Zach grabbed the 'oh shit' bar once again, hanging on for dear life, as he comforted himself with the knowledge that he wouldn't have to worry about embarrassing himself on assignment; this crazy bastard was going to kill him before they even got started on it.