Executive Decision

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

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


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Executive Decision

Interlude 3.19

Uploaded on 9/27/2009

Carhart waited impatiently as Henry hunched over his computer and input a variety of passwords that would lead him to the file that Carhart was trying to access.

"It's just that it was just finished uploading," Henry muttered with a slight frown, shaking his head. "Or maybe not. It's probably still streaming since it's a mission in progress."

"The mission is over," Carhart barked at the younger man, glaring down at him impatiently as anxiety and irritation overwhelmed him. "He's en route back to the Agency as we speak. Now stop moaning and get me a copy of that fucking file. The Marshal wants answers now."

Henry looked up at him with widened grey eyes and nodded quickly. "Yes, Sir."

The process took another twenty minutes before Carhart was exiting Data Retrieval with a small disc in one clenched hand. In his opinion it had been twenty minutes too long. He would have expected one of Emilio's admirers to move faster for something regarding him but it was also possible that Henry had stalled thinking he was doing the senior agent a favor.

Carhart sneered. People were so annoying and stupid when it came to Emilio.

He ignored everyone as he took the stairs up to his office.

Victoria, his new admin, sat up straight as he stormed past. She tried to get his attention but Carhart didn't acknowledge the girl and slammed his door shut without a backward glance. If she knew what was good for her, she'd pick up on his mood and leave him alone but Victoria wasn't nearly as well-versed in reading him as Amy had been. Not for the first time Carhart gritted his teeth in frustration as he thought about the death of his former administrative assistant.

Completely and utterly pointless. A waste.

Her accidental suicide didn't make any sense to him. Suicides rarely did. But Annabelle had tried to explain to him that Amy had suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following the raid and that Amy's intense paranoia had led to her mixing a dangerous cocktail of anxiety and sleep medication. The fact that she'd apparently washed it down with vodka hadn't helped.

Irritated by the thoughts, Carhart backtracked across his office and locked the door. That would keep Victoria away and if she started paging him, he couldn't be held responsible for his actions. He didn't even know why she was here this early, or this late, but then again admins for higher-tiered officers did almost as much work if not more than their bosses.

It was four in the morning and he hadn't slept for nearly two days but exhaustion was the farthest thing from his mind as he popped the disc into his computer and began going over the recording of a mission that had left two field agents dead in combat and a sole survivor who was charged with killing the third.

Carhart wondered if he'd feel the same sense of anxious urgency if that survivor had been someone other than Emilio.

Angelo Morales, Elaine Guerrera and Katarina Jones were all dead and Vivienne had demanded that Carhart find out how and why it had happened. General Hughes was demanding that Emilio be thrown in a cell on the Fourth as soon as he returned, because of the unauthorized execution of a fellow field agent.

A field agent who Hughes had been pushing to be promoted to level 9.

The mission should have been straightforward, or at least that was what Carhart had surmised from a quick once over of the mission outline and details. A storm at an alleged terrorist facility. They were to retrieve information that would hopefully lead them to Red Dawn's main base of operations and destroy the facility which appeared to be a test lab of various biological weapons.

The mission had been given a twenty minute estimated completion window and Carhart was awed that so much could go wrong within such a short amount of time.

Emilio had been running the team and had remained in the van at the start of it all.

Carhart started the mix of audio and video recording and listened as Emilio's deep voice issued curt orders to the three level 8 field ops he'd been assigned for the storm.

Carhart ignored the undertones of Elaine's responses to Emilio and the fact that she'd been apparently trying to speak to him on a hidden channel during the first six minutes of the mission.

Irritation spiked in Carhart at that; annoyed that he'd been so wrong about Elaine's character and professionalism from the start. He'd been hoping that she'd learned her lesson after that unfortunate morning in his apartment but apparently not.

But he supposed it didn't matter anymore. She was dead.

Emilio's voice had sounded impatient from the start, irritated and obviously doubting the capability of his team. It wasn't surprising; he didn't trust a lot of the younger field agents and had likely been displeased by having to run a storm with no level 9's whatsoever. Especially with terrorist and insurgent activity spiking up like wildfire around the globe and the Agency currently spread thin.

Everything appeared to be going smoothly for the first eight minutes of the mission and Carhart listened carefully to everything that happened as anxiety gnawed at his stomach. The critical moment in the mission was quickly arriving.

"Kat," Emilio's voice barked harshly, cutting through the silence of the recording abruptly. "What the fuck are you doing?"

Kat didn't respond and after ten seconds, Emilio demanded, "Angelo-- is Katarina in your line of sight?"

"No," Angelo answered automatically. The sounds of footsteps running echoed over his voice as he spoke. "But I'll turn back."

Carhart's eyes narrowed.

"I'm hearing a lot of activity all of a sudden," Elaine's voice interrupted abruptly. "Emilio, what's going on?"

"The idiot is in an unprotected channel," Emilio's voice growled over the comm.

Carhart brought his head to his hands, massaging his forehead wearily. He closed his eyes and imagined what Emilio had seen on the screen as he monitored his team's locations from the van. He imagined watching the blip that signified Katarina's position moving about as she unwittingly transmitted a signal that would put the protective zone of the facility on high alert. She may as well have raised a giant red flag and waved it around to show where they were.

"Abort," Emilio commanded suddenly.

"Katarina's going to be surrounded!" Elaine shouted over nearby gunshots. "They swarmed in on her!"

"Don't assist."

"I can get her," Elaine insisted.

"I said fucking abort!"

Elaine's comm briefly transmitted but all that could be heard over it was labored breathing, a frenzy of gunshots and then abrupt static.


Carhart threaded his fingers through his hair. He listened as Emilio exchanged curt words with Angelo and Carhart didn't open his eyes again until he knew that the video recording of Emilio's movements would be on the screen. For a moment Carhart felt the anxiety move through him violently as he watched, wondering what he would see.

For the first time, he worried that Vivienne's decision to monitor Emilio's active missions throughout his entire probationary period would prove her suspicions correct: That Emilio was too spontaneous and too wild to remain a stable field agent for long. That his personality would always drive him to abandon protocol.

Carhart watched as the night blurred around Emilio as he ran out of the van and through the woods toward Red Dawn's facility. The General knew what his friend was doing-- he knew that he'd already written his entire team off for dead and now he was using them as a distraction to accomplish the mission.

The entire outline had emphasized the element of surprise, of setting the explosives before engaging with hostiles because of their large presence on the base. Katarina's idiotic actions had made that impossible and now all Emilio could do was completely abort or use them all as bait.

As Carhart watched Emilio scale the side of the wall and cut the throat of one of the guard's stationed there, he had no delusions that Emilio was following through with the mission out of a sense of duty. As team leader he would be blamed for the massacre even if it wasn't his fault but if he completed the goal, there would be no real loss.

Three level 8 field agents were a small price to pay for information on Red Dawn. As Morgan had said months ago, field agents had a tendency to be expendable in the eyes of the Agency.

"Angelo's down. Heading for egress rou--" Katarina's voice was digitized and cut up before going out once again.

Carhart shook his head incredulously and watched as Emilio silently and efficiently killed seven hostiles, planting explosives on the way up to the lab. He was moving quickly and abandoning the original pattern of placing the bombs in his effort to retrieve the data before the guards caught up to Katarina and focused their attention elsewhere.

The General watched as Emilio's long, slim fingers moved dexterously over a keyboard, as he downloaded three large files, removed the disc and headed to the sole window in the empty lab. It'd likely been evacuated as soon as Red Dawn had set off their alert.

Emilio extracted a small matte black grappling hook from his belt and positioned it onto the now open window before jumping out and sliding down the side of the building stealthily. There was a thud as Emilio's boots touched the ground and a soft whooshing sound as he retracted the rope.

And just like that, Emilio had saved the mission.

Carhart had no idea why he did what he did next.

He watched as Emilio gunned down six more hostiles on his way out of the facility, running faster now that Red Dawn knew there was a fourth intruder. His feet pounded along the pavement before he scaled the wall athletically and disappeared into the cover of the trees.

For several long moments Carhart could hear nothing but the rustling of leaves and Emilio's low breathing. He imagined that his former partner was leading his pursuers in a confusing zig zag pattern that would undoubtedly allow him to lose them and make it back to the van.

It worked.

The black van appeared in view and so did Katarina. She was bloody and her face was drawn but she was alive, unlike Angelo and Elaine.

"Senior Agent Veg--"

Emilio shot her in the head before she could finish the question and Carhart stared at the screen in dismay.

Emilio didn't make a sound as he yanked Katarina's comm unit out of her ear, got into the van and jumped into the drivers seat. As Emilio started the vehicle and left Katarina's corpse behind, Carhart shut the recording off abruptly and stared into space.

He tried to ignore the chill that slid down his spine at having to once again see Emilio kill someone in cold blood and focused instead on the facts.

Katarina had cost them the lives of two field agents and nearly cost them the mission entirely. If Emilio had been less skilled, she would have also cost them a valuable level 10. It was possible that her comm had been faulty but her failure to realize that the long stretches of silence amongst her teammates and team leader were abnormal wasn't anything more than careless stupidity. She should have realized it after the first full minute of not receiving orders or updates and switched back to the right channel or completely shut her comm off.

Carhart looked out the window, his bloodshot eyes focusing on the dim light of the rising sun.

He had no doubts that Vivienne would have had Katarina terminated had she made it back to the Agency alive. It was even likely they would have had her interrogated first to ensure that the slip hadn't been a deliberate act of a double agent which Carhart felt was unlikely but Vivienne would pursue because of her tendency for unrelenting thoroughness.

So where did that leave them?

General Hughes was obviously fond of Katarina. The Spec Ops General had sung her praises on dozens of occasions to Carhart, citing her keen knowledge of explosives, her hacking abilities and solid success record as more than enough reason to promote her to level 9.

Carhart had always hesitated, thinking the girl was too immature mentally, too sensitive, too naive, but none of that mattered now. Hughes wouldn't be hounding him about the promotion anymore. The girl was dead and now Hughes would be hounding him for Emilio's blood.

Unauthorized execution of a fellow field agent indeed. Nevertheless, her execution would have occurred regardless and Emilio had likely saved her a lengthy torture by doing it himself, although Carhart sincerely doubted that Emilio had been thinking anything so generous when he'd pulled the trigger.

If anything his thoughts had probably been more along the lines of, 'You stupid bitch you nearly got me killed.'

Carhart shook his head, uploaded the file to Vivienne and turned away from his computer. He had no doubts that all Emilio would receive was a warning if he even got that. He'd accomplished the mission and that would be all Vivienne cared about. Hughes would just have to deal with it.

Carhart was just reaching for the phone to order the guards at Check-In to inform him as soon as Emilio arrived but before he could, a light tap sounded at the door.

The corners of his mouth sank down and he stood, striding across the room and swinging the door open to stare down at Victoria heatedly. He opened his mouth to yell at her but found that he couldn't do it. There was something about her cascades of silken blond hair, smoky cobalt eyes and plump red mouth that stopped him from coming down too hard on her.

She was ridiculously gorgeous, walking sex, and could probably get away with whatever she wanted if she really tried.

"What are you still doing here?" he demanded gruffly.

Victoria tilted her head to the side, adopting a confused look, and raised her arched eyebrows slightly. "General, I only got here an hour ago."

He glared at her. "What the hell for?"

She smiled and brushed past him, breezing into the office with a small covered tray and setting it on his desk. She was wearing a black sleeveless one piece outfit that was adorned with metallic accents and studs. It looked to be something resembling a jumpsuit although the pants, or shorts, ended very high on her upper thighs. When she bent over to set down the tray, Carhart's eyes tracked down her body and watched as the backs of the shorts rose dangerously high, exposing the barest hint of her ass cheeks.

He couldn't decide if she looked ridiculous or ridiculously fuckable but it was apparent that she was taking full advantage of the late summer's surprising warmth. The climate had gradually warmed over the past couple years but it was the first time in nearly two decades that the northeast had hit a temperature of high 70s.

"I got in at three," she explained, taking the lid off the tray and pressing a button on it to activate the heating chip. There was a coffee pot and two mugs sitting on the tray although she removed the mugs and carefully placed them on coasters on his desk. "You have a video conference with Prince Khalid in an hour. Remember? You complained about high-maintenance Saudi royalty having no regard for time zones even though it's for their own political intrigue? You even debated blowing him off and leaving him to deal with his own plotting."

Carhart grimaced but didn't comment on the prince. Instead he pointed to the second mug. "I'm not in the mood for chit-chat."

Victoria rolled her large blue eyes, long lashes framing them as she flicked a piece of lint off her jumpsuit. "Why would I invite myself to coffee when you've never taken me up on my offer to take you out for drinks? I know when I'm not wanted."

Carhart ignored her little pout and the obviously suggestive tone and made a face. "I'm not in the mood for this, Victoria."

She sighed tragically. "It's for Agent Vega. I informed Ingrid in Check-In to ring you when Agent Vega arrived. I assumed you would bring him back up here and I know how phenomenally cranky you both can be when sleep deprived so..."

Maybe she wasn't as uselessly oblivious to his moods as he'd thought. "And how did you know that Agent Vega was involved?"

Victoria shrugged modestly and held up a small handheld panel computer. "I was attempting to give you the notes I prepped for you for the conference with Khalid--"

"You prepped notes for me?" He stared at her.

"I just jotted down some of the things you'd said to ensure that you didn't forget with it being so early and all. You've only gotten about sixteen hours of sleep in the past two weeks, General Carhart. And I know you've been popping those caffeine pills. Eric in Medical sent you a memo pretty much cutting you off--"

Carhart snatched the panel and thumbed through the document on the touch screen, ignoring the irritation that coursed through him. If he decided to down an entire bottle of energy pills it wouldn't matter to anyone as long as he got the job done so Eric needed to mind his own goddamn business.

"Anyway," Victoria went on, watching him curiously as she continued her story. She looked pleased when he nodded in approval at her bullet-pointed notes. "You looked so pissed off that I figured something must have happened. I went into the system and scanned a few of the active missions and saw that Agent Vega's was red-flagged so I made my assumptions from there."

"Clever." He put the panel down onto the desk and despite the fact that he felt overwhelmingly grateful for her thoughtfulness, he couldn't stop himself from making the next comment. "You're certainly smarter than you look."

She just smiled at him. "Us hot blondes are typically underestimated, aren't we?"

Carhart didn't bother to comment and was saved from any more of Victoria's wit when his intercom chimed.

"Agent Vega has arrived, General Carhart," Ingrid's low voice rang out in its typical monotone.

Carhart was walking out of the door before Victoria could comment. He took the elevator directly down to the Tower's sub level, gaining access with an iris scan. It took less than three full minutes to get to the gates but the waiting seemed like an eternity and Carhart strode purposefully into the garage.

He was unsurprised by the scene.

The van Emilio had taken out for the mission was parked to the side and General Hughes currently had Emilio pinned against it as two guards and the two agents who manned the Check-In stood uncertainly in the background, obviously uncomfortable with the scene but unsure of what to do in the face of a general's wrath.

Hughes was a large man-- easily 6'5", built like a body builder and the most intimidating General out of all of them. He typically spoke coldly, dispassionately and no one knew much about his personal life. Carhart had worked with the man ever since joining the Agency and all he knew about Hughes was that he was known for being a genius rather than the killing machine he looked like.

"Hughes!" Carhart's mouth sank downwards and the guards looked over at him with varying degrees of relief.

Hughes didn't even turn his head. He continued to hold Emilio against the van, his large fists white-knuckled as he gripped Emilio's black jacket. Hughes was glowering ferociously, his eyes bloodshot and his mouth set in an ugly grimace. He looked frightening to say the least but Emilio just stared down at him with irritation more than fear, even as his boots dangled off the floor.

"Hughes, put him down," Carhart ordered as he came to a stop near them.

"He. Is. Done. Here." Hughes spoke through grit teeth, his voice rough. It was odd to see him so obviously emotional about the death of a field agent.

Carhart stared at him with a frown and looked away for a moment. There had to have been something more between Hughes and Katarina. Or maybe Hughes had wanted there to be.

"Put me the fuck down, General," Emilio drawled darkly, green eyes narrowing at Hughes. Sarcasm oozed from his tone in the typical way it did when he spoke to a superior who hadn't been a superior before he'd disappeared so many years ago. Even now, months after being reinstated, Emilio had trouble coming to terms with the changes that had swept through the Agency in his absence.

"I'm recommending Level 10 Field Agent Emilio Vega for immediate termination," Hughes said curtly, still not looking at Carhart.

Carhart just sighed wearily. "That's not going to happen, Ken. I've already reviewed the mission."

Hughes' head snapped over at he gave Carhart a glare so black that for a moment Carhart thought the other man was going to attack him. But then Hughes released Emilio abruptly, causing Emilio to land on his feet with a thud.

"So then you know he murdered Agent Jones," Hughes snarled.

"That bitch would have been terminated anyway, you idiot," Emilio snapped with obvious disgust.

Hughes spun around and slammed one meaty fist into Emilio's jaw. Emilio didn't block, allowing himself to be hit, and slammed backwards against the van due to the force of the punch. Blood erupted from his mouth and he brought his arm up to it as his eyes froze into chips of emerald ice.

His eyes slid over to Carhart briefly before going back to Hughes and even though the guards rushed forward as if to stop an impending brawl that would land Emilio on the Fourth for assaulting a commanding officer, Emilio did nothing.

He wasn't stupid. He had a lot of pride but his sense of self-preservation was stronger than his ego. In a lot of ways, he wasn't as reckless as his son who would have likely had Hughes on his back before the punch had landed.

"Pussy," Emilio commented instead of retaliating physically. "All strung out over some sorry ass bitch who couldn't tell her comm unit from her clit."

"Emilio, shut your fucking mouth before I send you to solitary confinement," Carhart growled at him impatiently.

Emilio wiped the blood from his face, smearing it in the process, and said nothing.

Hughes spun on Carhart, seething. "It was not his place to execute her," he said in a cold, flat voice as he took a step closer. "Put him on the list."

"No." Carhart raised his eyebrows at Hughes, not backing away as the man took another step forward. "I already told you, Kenneth. I reviewed the mission and I sent the Marshal the files. Agent Vega may receive disciplinary action for acting without instruction regarding the issue of Agent Jones but he will not be terminated. He completed the mission when the other three operatives failed. Agent Jones put all of their lives and the mission at risk, getting two solid operatives killed in the process."

Hughes' face contorted dangerously, his thick lips curling back as he took another step forward until he was well in Carhart's personal space. "He will pay, Zachary. And you will make sure of it. I don't care how well you knew him in the past. You will not let him get away with this."

He said each word with a steely quality and behind each word emanated a threat. An unspoken 'or else.'

Anger swelled inside Carhart and his cerulean eyes narrowed. "I made the decision already, General Hughes. The Marshal will support me. Your feelings have no effect on that. Accept what occurred and move on, for your own sake. If Vega hadn't done it, she would have been tortured and incinerated here regardless. Get over it."

For such a large man, Hughes moved surprisingly quickly.

In the space of a blink, his gun was out and trained on Carhart who didn't so much as twitch in response to the barrel pressing against his forehead. There was no fear in his eyes as he looked directly into Hughes' brown glare.

The guards surged forward in alarm but didn't come closer, not with Hughes' finger resting on the trigger.

"You're being a fool, Kenneth," Carhart said evenly. "Despite your insistence, she was a substandard operative who got two people killed. Accept it. And move on."

"He had no right to make that decision and neither do you," Hughes returned darkly, his eyes glittering.


"Put the fucking gun down before I blow your brains out like I did your little girlfriend's," Emilio said flatly, slipping behind Hughes and pressing his own gun against the back of Hughes' head.

Carhart's eyes flicked to Emilio with a hint of uncertainty and anger. "Emi--"

Hughes' hand twitched and his mouth tightened.

"I'll give you a few seconds," Emilio continued conversationally, leaning forward to press his mouth against Hughes' ear. Hughes recoiled but his hand didn't waver. "And you should know by now, I won't fucking hesitate to kill you. Just ask your girlfriend whenever you meet the silly bitch in hell."

Something in Carhart's chest twisted and for a moment he couldn't decide if he was angrier at Hughes or Emilio.

Hughes stared into Carhart's eyes and his fury slowly crumbled as a brief glimmer of disbelief flashed in his typically unreadable eyes. Carhart shook his head slightly, unable to stop himself from pitying the man and the near suicidal stunt he'd just pulled in the heat of a very tense moment.

Hughes lowered his gun and dropped it to the ground, closing his eyes briefly. "Fuck it all," he whispered gruffly.

The guards immediately soared forward and restrained the General but he no longer seemed interested in resisting or fighting. He just stared at the floor vacantly, not even responding when Emilio scoffed and backed away.

"Should we bring him to the Fourth, General Carhart?" Officer Travis Randazzo demanded quickly. The man was next in line to make lieutenant if Luke Gerant's transition to field agent went smoothly and Randazzo was taking the possibility seriously.

Agents Lowe and Williams flanked Randazzo although unlike the guard, they didn't look as enthused about the idea of dragging a well-respected General up to the Fourth Floor Detainment Center. Sometimes the dynamic between guards and agents and the different degrees of loyalty between them was intriguing to behold.

Carhart had no doubts that Lowe and Williams respected him as the head General but at the same time, there wasn't an agent on the compound who didn't hold Hughes in high regard. Whereas the guards' only concern was keeping order on the compound and ensuring that the chain of command was respected no matter who was in charge. This was likely why Randazzo and the second guard, Keepes, looked on the verge of tranquilizing Hughes and dragging him upstairs without delay.


Emilio stared at Carhart incredulously.

"Take him to psych. Tell them that I've ordered a 72-hour evaluation due to the extreme nature of Hughes' grief regarding the death of a..." Carhart trailed off and stared at Hughes. Hughes just stared back. "A friend," Carhart finished flatly.

"Yes, Sir," Randazzo replied, almost seeming disappointed. Then again he'd always had a soft spot for Carhart ever since Carhart had promoted Luke Gerant who was said to be a good friend of the guard. It wasn't surprising that Randazzo was feeling overly protective.

Randazzo and Keepes started to hustle the subdued Spec Ops general out of the space but as Hughes passed Emilio, he came to an abrupt stop and leaned forward, hissing something into the other man's ear.

Carhart couldn't hear what he said but Emilio's expression went from cruelly amused to studiously blank and Carhart's eyes narrowed suspiciously.

When Hughes and the guards disappeared into one of the elevators, Carhart turned his glare onto Lowe and Williams. "What are you waiting for? Take the material upstairs."

Lowe jumped to attention and she nodded quickly, grabbing the disc from Emilio's lax fingers and moving away from the scene.

"You. Come with me," Carhart growled and grabbed Emilio's arm violently, dragging him toward the elevator bank and feeling surprised when the other man didn't resist. The muscles in Emilio's arm were tense and he felt like a coiled spring that was ready to snap at any moment. His handsome face had slipped into one of the dark expressions that took over whenever his mood turned black but at the moment Carhart didn't care enough to try to figure out why.

The silence between them was thick as they returned to his office and Carhart shoved Emilio inside forcibly, not looking at Victoria as they passed her, and he slammed the door behind him.

Emilio stood in the middle of the office for a moment, a muscle in his jaw ticking as he stared out the window before he shook his head, as if trying to brush something off, and sat down in one of the chairs. He licked his full lips, ran a hand through his short black hair and rolled his shoulders as if trying to get rid of some of the tension.

Carhart stood by the desk, staring down at his former partner and temporary roommate with barely concealed irritation. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Emilio shrugged. "Is that a trick question?"

Carhart's lips thinned into a tight line and his eyebrows drew together. "I won't repeat the question, Agent Vega."

Emilio's well formed mouth twisted into a humorless smile and his wide green eyes rose to gaze at the General. "We on official terms now, Zachary? Is this an Agency inquisition?"

"I want answers."

"What if you don't like my answers?" Emilio asked with a slight lift of his dark eyebrows. "Gonna terminate me?"

"Maybe." The word was out of Carhart's mouth before he could stop it and although he knew it was a complete lie, he didn't give any indications that he didn't mean it. Instead, he continued to stare down at his friend without emotion.

Emilio's smile melted away and his eyebrows drew together entirely. His eyes flicked over Carhart's face as if searching for any indication that he wasn't being serious. After a moment, Emilio jerked his gaze away and swallowed, adam's apple bobbing in his throat visibly, but the strange expression on his face didn't look like anything remotely resembling fear.

"Do what you have to do," he said in a dead tone.

Carhart rolled his eyes and walked around the desk, leaning against the front of it. He hated to admit that on some level it gave him a smug, self-satisfied thrill that he had the ability to hurt Emilio's feelings but at the moment he didn't feel like dealing with the fallout that would result from it. "Don't be ridiculous."

Emilio just shrugged, frowning, refusing to look up.

"Why did you kill her?"

"I dunno."

Carhart scowled. "You're going to have to do better than that, Emilio. Maybe I won't recommend you to be terminated but the Marshal is going to want answers. You know she doesn't trust you not to be completely reckless and you're giving her ammunition right now."

Emilio looked up finally and tilted his head to the side, studying Carhart intently. "So you're pissed off because... of that?"

"Yes," Carhart replied without delay. "I am. You and your son have a really good knack for getting yourselves into phenomenally fucked up messes and even if I can't comprehend what would possess you to shoot that poor stupid girl in cold blood, I know she would have died regardless. I don't want to see you dead for taking the matter into your own hands."

Some of the darkness left Emilio's expression and after a stretch of silence he said, "I didn't know what her deal was. I didn't know if that shit was deliberate or if she really was that fucking idiotic. I decided I'd rather be safe than sorry. With all of the weird shit that's been happening on missions lately, I got paranoid that she botched it on purpose and if that was the case, I'm not gonna be a dumb fuck and ride with the bitch all the way back to the Agency if she'd just tried to set me up to be killed."

Carhart regarded the other man thoughtfully. It made sense and Emilio sounded like he was being honest but he was such a good actor sometimes that it was difficult to tell.

"Satisfied?" Emilio demanded impatiently.

"No. But Vivienne will be."

Emilio sighed disgustedly and rubbed his hands over his face. "What do you want from me, Zachary? To say I feel fucking sad? To cry? To look like I give a damn?"

Yes, Carhart thought with a frown, turning his eyes away. I want you to show that you are capable of empathy, of human emotions, to show me that you're not a cold-blooded sociopath like you claim to be.

Emilio dropped his hands and stared at the General. His lip curled slightly and he said stonily, "If it makes you feel better, if I'd have known then what I know now, I probably wouldn't've done it."

"And what do you know now?"

Emilio shrugged. "Ask Hughes."

Carhart had no delusions that Emilio was going to say anything beyond that and the General turned away from the conversation, moving to stand by the floor-to-ceiling window and stare out at the lightening sky glumly.

He felt exhausted from lack of sleep, sore from excessive working out in the past few weeks, sick from his poor diet and unequivocally disturbed by the entire situation that he'd found himself in. The weariness weighed on his shoulders and not for the first time in the past few weeks, Carhart had the fleeting thought that his life would be so much easier if the new Marshal decided to just fucking demote him or purge him entirely.

He'd never considered himself capable of making the kinds of decisions and judgment calls that he found himself responsible for and after so many years of doing it, for some reason this felt like the straw that broke the camel's back.

What would he have done if he was Hughes? How would he have felt if Agent Trovosky or Agent Logan had deemed Sin or Boyd too big of a risk to allow them to return to the compound without even the chance of an investigation that could have possibly resulted in high-level probation and the chance to redeem themselves instead of termination? How would he have felt if someone had blown their brains out and left them in a remote forest for their bodies to rot?

Carhart knew exactly how he would have felt. He would have reacted the same way Hughes had. He'd reacted in a similar manner when Connors had made the call to give up on Sin's survival in Mexico and ordered for the team not to even retrieve his corpse.

Carhart grimaced, swallowing and stiffly shrugging off the sport jacket he'd thrown on over his too-casual, black short-sleeved shirt.

He was so lost in his own self-deprecating thoughts that he jumped slightly when Emilio's fingers suddenly slid over his bicep and squeezed his shoulder. Carhart turned immediately, disturbed by Emilio's ability to completely sneak up on him, and saw that the other man was standing very close to him and looking at him with an intense expression.

"What?" Carhart asked gruffly, tensing up when Emilio didn't move his hand.

Emilio just lifted his eyebrows briefly, flexing his fingers against Carhart's strong shoulder. His gaze was magnetic, searching, and Carhart found himself staring back without the ability to look away.

"I'm sorry," Emilio said finally, evenly, his deep voice low.

Carhart shook his head slightly, not comprehending.

Emilio squeezed Carhart's shoulder one final time before allowing his hand to drop away, gliding along the other man's muscular arm faintly before letting it drop to his side. "I'm sorry that you're upset because of what I did. It's not your fault."

"Who said I'm upset?" Carhart asked almost defensively, his guard raising.

Emilio's lips lifted slightly at the sides and his gaze raked over Carhart slowly, deliberately. "I know you, Zachary."

"Do you?"

"Hmm." Emilio's eyes lifted to Carhart's cerulean ones. "I'd think so. But one question."

Carhart raised an eyebrow inquiringly.

"If it was someone else that did what I did. Would you have let Randazzo take them to the Fourth until at least an investigation was through?"

Carhart barely had to consider the question. "Yes."

Emilio stared at Carhart and his fingers once again flexed absently at his sides as if he wanted to do something with them and was having trouble stopping himself. His jaw clenched and unclenched and his long black eyelashes lowered over his impossibly vivid green eyes that once again traveled along the length of Carhart.

Carhart finally took a step back although he didn't look away from Emilio. "Stop."

"Stop what?"

Carhart frowned and hesitated only briefly. The impending topic was one he'd avoided since Emilio's return. It was one that he'd avoided thinking about for the past several years. But as much as he would have liked to bury the issue completely and forget what it made him remember and the confusing thoughts that infested him whenever it came up, it was obvious that Emilio wasn't going to let it die on his own.

"Stop looking at me like you want to fuck me."

Emilio's expression didn't change but once again he swallowed thickly, shifting and absently curling his hands into fists. "But I do want to fuck you."

Carhart's face shifted into a full glare and irritation swept through him. "It's not going to happen so you may as well take your adrenaline-laced need to get laid somewhere else."

Emilio frowned and took another step closer to the General. "I'm not the only one who likes to fuck after a near death experience, baby. Or did you forget?"

Carhart felt his face burning slightly but he forced himself not to show the discomfort that raged through him. "I try very hard to forget, actually. Maybe you should try it sometime."

This time Emilio scoffed, a look of irritation taking over his face. "You should know by now that I ain't trying to push Brighton out of my mind. In fact that was one of my favorite missions of all time."

The General stared at him incredulously. "Do you remember how horrible that mission was, Emilio? It's not a fucking joke. Do you remember what we went through? What we had to do to get by for all of those months?"

Emilio shrugged. "I remember us fucking more times than I can count on my fingers and toes."

Carhart exhaled slowly and crossed his arms over his chest. Emilio was obviously waiting for a reaction and Carhart wasn't sure he wanted to give the other man what he wanted. So instead he just said blandly, "Yes. For the mission. Or did you forget that our cover was that we were lovers? That my cover was blindly and pathetically infatuated with you?"

"Oh I remember," Emilio said softly, wetting his lips unconsciously and flexing his fingers again. "I remember you fucking me at that orgy and loving every minute of it."

This time Carhart couldn't stop himself from recoiling from the statement and the blood rushed to his face. "If I'd refused, my cover would have been blown. You just took advantage of the situation and it didn't help that we were both hopped up on drugs."

"But you're the one who modified our covers, sweetheart," Emilio drawled, gaze once again sliding over Carhart's body.

"Because our cover was fucking stupid!" Carhart shouted in frustration, still angry over this debate, over these insinuations after years. "They didn't buy our cover. Why the fuck would they? Who would believe that the unrepentant murderer that you supposedly were would suddenly have some completely platonic best friend who tagged along even though my cover barely had a rap sheet? They thought it was bogus. Us being gay lovers made a lot more sense considering you were supposed to be bouncing from one maximum security all male prison to a fucking community all male prison, serving life. More than two thirds of the guys in there had male lovers, even the straight ones."

"Maybe," Emilio agreed, his gaze focused squarely and quite obviously on Carhart's mouth. "But you sure did enjoy railing me, didn't you?"

Carhart stood up straight, staring down his nose at Emilio. "Temporary disassociation due to abnormal immersion with a cover identity."

Emilio's eyes narrowed and snapped up to meet Carhart's hard gaze. The field agent stepped back finally, frustration obvious in his face. "Is that still what you're telling yourself, Zachary?"

"Yes. That's what happened." Carhart leaned forward, his face less than an inch from Emilio's, cruelly enjoying the way Emilio's eyes seemingly helplessly drew to his lips as if he couldn't help himself, as if he was really suffering because he wasn't being allowed to do what he wanted.

"Accept that I don't want you. And get over it," Carhart said coldly.

The pained look that crossed Emilio's face was too prominent for him to sufficiently cover and once again Carhart felt the same oddly self-satisfied feeling at seeing Emilio so obviously in a state of uncertainty.

"Fine," Emilio snapped finally, his voice thick with anger and something less identifiable. "Fuck you, then."

"No thanks. That's the point."

Emilio gave Carhart a hateful look that rivaled the one Hughes had given him earlier and stormed out of the office without another word.

Carhart stared at the door after Emilio slammed it so violently, for the second time in weeks, that a picture fell off the wall. The sound of shattering glass didn't even faze Carhart and he couldn't help the tiny smile that wanted to cross his mouth.

It felt good to be the one in control.

Continue to the next interlude: 3.20, Rhapsody